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Posted by Aaron Bycoffe

When Donald Trump ran for president, many Republican senators were reluctant to endorse him, with some even calling on him to end his candidacy. Now that Trump is in office, that reluctance isn’t visible in the way senators are voting: Republicans are, by and large, supporting the president.

Generally speaking, the worse Trump did in a Democratic senator’s state, the more likely that senator is to vote against Trump’s nominees and legislation that he supports. Republicans’ votes, on the other hand, don’t track at all with how their state voted in the presidential election. Instead, Republicans are mostly voting in line with the administration.

FiveThirtyEight’s Trump Score tracks how often each senator votes with the president. Trump’s position isn’t clear on every vote the Senate takes, so this analysis comprises 32 Senate votes: 19 were on Cabinet-level confirmations, and 13 were on the passage of bills and joint resolutions for which we know Trump’s stance.

On those votes, the average Republican has voted with Trump’s position more than 99 percent of the time. The average Democrat has voted with Trump’s position about 27 percent of the time.

There’s a fairly straightforward explanation for the voting pattern so far: The Republicans have a slim majority in the Senate, holding 52 seats to the Democrats’ 48. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is unlikely to allow votes on legislation or nominations that he knows won’t be successful, so things that come to the floor are all but guaranteed to get at least 50 votes — which means Republicans will end up voting together consistently. There’s less necessity for Democrats, as the out-of-power party, to vote together 100 percent (or close to 100 percent) of the time. Republicans can pass legislation and confirm nominees without any Democratic votes, as long as almost all the Republicans vote together. Republican defections from the party position, in other words, can kill a bill; Democratic defections from the party position can change only the margin by which a bill passes or a nominee is confirmed.

It’s also likely that some of the legislation being passed would have been passed by a Republican Senate even with someone else as president. Eleven of the votes included here were on rolling back regulations finalized toward the end of the Obama administration, for example. But Republican senators are also showing little resistance to voting for Trump’s Cabinet nominees.

We can compare how the Senate is voting in Trump’s first year (so far) with how it voted in the first year of previous administrations, with some caveats. The best historical data on the topic is compiled by George C. Edwards III, a political science professor at Texas A&M University. He looks at legislation that presidents took a position on and how legislators voted, giving them a score showing how often they voted with the president. The most comparable score in Edwards’s data is limited to contested votes — those on which the winning side got less than 80 percent of the vote.

Limiting our data to contested votes leaves Republicans’ average agreement about the same. But the Democrats’ average changes drastically: While the average Democrat has voted with Trump’s position about 27 percent of the time on the 32 votes for which we know his position, on contested votes — of which there have been 23 — the average Democrat has voted with Trump’s position only about 9 percent of the time.

We can also see that in the first year of the past few administrations, while senators from the president’s party vote heavily in support of him — and senators from the opposing party heavily against — there are typically more defections than there have been so far this year.

The Cavs Might Actually Be In Trouble

Mar. 30th, 2017 07:38 pm
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Posted by Chris Herring

After making six straight NBA Finals, LeBron James and his teams have earned the benefit of the doubt when they hit a rough patch. His Heat and Cavaliers teams have shown they can turn things around in a hurry, almost as if all they needed to do is flip a switch to revert to their dominant selves.

But, my, what a rough patch they’re in. The club, which entered Thursday in a virtual tie with Boston for first place in the East, has dropped 10 of its last 17 games. Six of those defeats have been by double digits, including each of their last four. Perhaps most troubling: The team’s defense has been the NBA’s worst throughout the month of March, which is saying a lot, given how many teams aren’t really trying to win anymore.

It’s becoming harder and harder to ignore what Cleveland’s play might mean for the Cavs’ chances of repeating as champs. This may be the weakest LeBron team we’ve seen this late in a season since his finals streak began in 2011. Our NBA win prediction model gives Cleveland a 2 percent chance of winning it all, less than teams such as Boston, Washington and Toronto. And while that seems surprising, it shouldn’t be: Cleveland’s recent struggles are testing the limits of how strong a team’s defense needs to be to win a championship.

At the moment, the Cavaliers are tied for 22nd in defensive efficiency, a mark that would rank as the worst among any team that’s reached the finals in modern history.

There are several reasons the Cavs aren’t good defenders. Unlike much of the Big Three era in Miami, where players had the athleticism and smarts to fly around and cause havoc on defense, Cleveland is slow footed. Some of that is a function of the Cavs’ roster being long in the tooth; six members of the rotation are at least 31 years old. Other times, it looks as if players aren’t hustling, which partly explains why the club ranks dead last in transition defense, according to Synergy Sports. The Cavs also really struggle to keep the ball in front of them, and are tied for worst in the league at containing pick-and-roll ballhandlers.

As the Cavs seek to work out their kinks, opponents have found that they can often generate fantastic looks against Cleveland with minimal effort and ball movement. Last year the club was pretty solid — 12th best in the NBA — at forcing foes to use nearly all of the shot clock. This season, Cleveland is tied for last in the NBA in terms of how often it forces clubs to use the final four seconds of the shot clock. (That lack of pressure also speaks to how seldom the Cavs force their opponents into turnovers compared with the rest of the league.)

Still, context for the Cavs’ struggles is important. Yes, the team looks mediocre and is in real jeopardy of finishing with the No. 2 seed, or worse, in the East. But James hasn’t really needed the top seed to make the finals over these past six years; in four of those seasons, his team finished in second place before going on to win the East anyway.

“It matters more that we’re playing better basketball than where we’re at,” James told reporters after a 29-point loss in San Antonio this week. “If that results in us having the No. 1 seed, the No. 2 seed, 3 or whatever the hell it is, we need to play better basketball. That’s what it comes down to.”

Most clubs would gladly take Cleveland’s problems, given that the Cavs — for all their struggles — have continued to boast a top-flight offense, scoring 110 points per 100 plays (eighth best) over this 17-game span. Coach Tyronn Lue, in a somewhat odd comment, said he has a potential antidote for the team’s defensive woes but that he doesn’t want to unveil it until the postseason begins. (Making the comment even odder: Lue also said he’s not necessarily confident the fix will work.)

Yet there are a couple of warning signals worth noting as the Cavs hit the homestretch that simply weren’t there in years past. No James-led team the past six seasons has finished the second half of the season with a negative point differential per 100 possessions, but this one is on the cusp of doing so. Cleveland, with nine games left in its season, is getting outscored by 2.8 points per 100 plays since the All-Star break.

2010-11 Miami 8.5 7.3
2011-12 Miami 7.2 3.0
2012-13 Miami 9.9 11.9
2013-14 Miami 6.1 5.8
2014-15 Cleveland 3.7 6.9
2015-16 Cleveland 5.8 5.9
2016-17 Cleveland 2.8 -2.8
Is it time for LeBron and the Cavaliers to hit the panic button?

*The amount of points a team outscores its opponent by over a span of 100 plays

Source: NBA.com

Love’s defense has also regressed. It had improved a bit during the first half of the season, but now looks problematic again since he returned from an injury. The Cavs, who were 4.5 points better than normal when Love and James shared the court before Love got injured, have been 24 points worse per 100 plays when that duo plays together since Love came back. And much of that decline is on the defensive end; particularly when offenses find ways to pull Tristan Thompson out of the paint in hopes of punishing Love in the middle of the floor, with no one to guard the basket.

Defensive rebounding is the other area that’s marked a clear difference from last year. Cleveland ranked fifth in defensive-rebounding percentage last year but now is tied for 24th; a decrease due in part to Thompson’s full-time shift to the center position, where he’s been tasked with increased rim-protection responsibility as opposed to just gobbling up misses.

As such, the Cavaliers aren’t the stingy team they once were. Last season, they allowed the third-fewest second-chance points; now they’re the NBA’s sixth-weakest team in that regard. The Cavaliers have enough problems when they limit opponents to one shot, let alone two or three.

But how much of the Cavs’ defensive struggles will matter come June? Knowing what we know about LeBron’s ability to flip the switch, analyzing the Cavs’ late-season struggles this closely may prove to be silly. But if the Cavs do indeed fail to reach the finals, there will have been at least some writing on the wall from earlier in the season.

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Posted by Rob Arthur and Neil Paine

The first days of spring are the perfect time to kick back, relax and get ready for a new MLB season and all the possibilities it might bring. We’ve previewed all six divisions already at FiveThirtyEight, but we still had some deep thoughts about baseball’s Big Questions. That’s why we’ve prepared a guidebook of sorts for what to watch for in 2017, with an eye on where the game is headed. Here are 10 topics we’ll be thinking — and writing — about throughout the season:


Did the Cubs prove tanking works?

In many ways, the 2016 Chicago Cubs were an inimitable team. They started with one of the most hyped rosters in MLB history, somehow surpassed even those lofty expectations for most of the regular season, then survived a treacherous postseason to win the World Series and finally set down a burden they’d carried for 108 years. For better and for worse, that’s not a path most franchises are in a position to take.

But it won’t stop other clubs from trying to replicate elements of the Cubs’ success. And one major area where they might try to borrow from Chicago’s blueprint is in the reinvigorated notion of the “success cycle.” Longtime friend-of-FiveThirtyEight Jonah Keri introduced the concept in the early 2000s as a way to formalize the idea that teams undergo a cycle of rising and falling, building and tearing down rosters at regular intervals. Keri later disavowed the idea, but it might be on the way back after the Cubs’ rebuilding (or, as the less charitable among us might call it, “tanking”) effort under GM Theo Epstein bore such delicious fruit the past few seasons.

At the same time that Epstein was executing his rebuild in Chicago, the Houston Astros were doing something similar (to good effect, with even more success potentially on the way), and the Brewers, Braves and Phillies are currently letting their fields lie fallow. League-wide, just two key characteristics — a team’s payroll and its average age — explained a whopping 58 percent of the variation in win-loss records during the 2016 season, the highest that mark has been since at least 1998. Both of those characteristics are strongly associated with how a team tries to manipulate where it is in the success cycle

It’s hard to blame Keri for writing off the success cycle; when he was re-evaluating it after the 2010 season, age and payroll had just gotten done explaining a mere 14 percent of the variation in records. In other words, as recently as a few years ago, the familiar patterns of team-building seemed to have been broken. But in an odd twist, maybe the relevance of the success cycle follows its own cyclical pattern. If that’s the case, the Cubs capitalized on it at exactly the right time. –Neil


Will the shift keep getting more popular?

Baseball’s swift adoption of the defensive shift stands as one of sabermetrics’ shining achievements, turning what was a seldom-used tactic in the early 2000s into a strategy that was deployed on nearly a third of all balls in play in 2016:

The shift’s popularity has exploded since 2011, with each subsequent season setting new records for how frequently it was used. But given all of this shifting, it’s fair to wonder when the tactic will reach its peak — when hitters will have adjusted enough to keep the defense honest by, say, going to the opposite field, or hitting more fly balls, or even dropping down bunts.

We probably aren’t there yet. Even though the league’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) has stayed relatively constant despite the ridiculous uptick in shifting, there’s also evidence that the shift has hampered the production of the players who face it the most. Then again, Cubs manager — and former shift-master — Joe Maddon used the tactic less than anybody else last season, instead employing a pitching staff who induced unusually soft contact to allow the league’s lowest BABIP. If the rest of baseball ends up copying the champs, maybe the shift will reach a high-water mark after all. –Neil


Are the kids still all right?

Kris Bryant burst into baseball in 2015, performing like an All-Star right out of the gate and earning Rookie of the Year honors at age 24. He improved in 2016, elevating his on-base percentage and isolated power on the way to being crowned the National League’s Most Valuable Player (not to mention leading the Cubs to their first World Series title in 108 years).

Bryant was emblematic of a larger trend in baseball: the rise of a new generation of talent. Driven by Bryant, Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, and a host of other exciting rookies, 2015 featured the lowest average age (weighted by production, as measured by FanGraphs’ wins above replacement) in more than three decades.

But that trend was not to last. The WAR-weighted age ticked upward in 2016, caused in part by the aging of that young cohort. It still remained the second-lowest figure in 30 years, but the abrupt increase suggests that rather than a general youth movement, baseball may have experienced a one-time spike in young talent, one that may lead to a golden generation.

The next couple of seasons should provide some clarity. If another class of rookies starts accomplishing amazing things, then perhaps baseball has made a long-term shift toward younger players. In contrast, if Bryant, Lindor, et al. remain dominant, then maybe 2015 was a unique event, the arrival of a new wave of great players who will drag the production-weighted average age up as they get older. Either way, baseball fans are witnessing a major shift in the game’s talent. –Rob

Is the bullpen takeover here to stay?

Postseason fads — which often replicate whatever novel development some team rides to the World Series — are usually quickly dropped in subsequent seasons. (Remember when we thought MLB would be overrun by a horde of speedy, contact-hitting Kansas City Royals clones two Octobers ago?) But last fall’s bullpen craze might be a rare playoff trend with staying power. That’s because the Cubs and Indians’ dominance in relief was just the most visible manifestation of a pattern that’s been building for years.

Over the past couple decades, bullpens have become central to teams’ plans. Relievers pitched 33 percent of available innings in 1997; that number reached an all-time high of 37 percent in 2016. More importantly, relievers also generated 24 percent of all pitching wins above replacement (WAR) last season, the most they’ve ever contributed. The latter number has been growing fast in recent seasons, up from just 16 percent as recently as 2005:

It’s long been known that a pitcher is more effective out of the bullpen than as a starter, so it’s not too surprising that by shifting a greater share of the workload to relievers, managers have gotten more value out of their ’pens. But the gap in effectiveness between the two types of pitchers is also growing at an incredible rate. In 1995, the first season of the post-strike era, relievers and starters posted basically identical fielding independent pitching (FIP) rates. Since 2012, however, the average FIP for relievers (3.79) has been 0.25 points lower than the average for starters (4.04).

That quarter of a run quickly begins to add up to wins, especially as relievers are called upon to pitch more and more — and, increasingly, in more important situations. Toss in the fact that there are more hard-throwing relievers than before, as well as more managers like Cleveland’s Terry Francona — who experimented with the kinds of revolutionary bullpen tweaks SABR-heads have been advocating for decades — and we might find ourselves looking back at 2016 not as the year relief pitching peaked, but rather as just another waystation on the road to total bullpen dominance. –Neil

Can we finally measure defense?

Since the inception of sabermetrics, defense has always stumped the statheads. Without the detailed data — like pitch location and exit velocity — that’s available to measure pitching and hitting, defensive metrics have been unreliable and inaccurate. Adam Eaton was one of the best fielders in baseball in 2016 … and, according to those same metrics, a below-average defender in 2015.

But the future of defensive stats looks brighter: MLB’s new Statcast system can measure everything about a defensive play, from the running speed of the fielder to the exact landing point of the ball. Armed with that new data, MLB’s statisticians have crafted impressive new metrics to quantify the difficulty of every outfield catch over the last two seasons, a huge upgrade on the information we had available before. (Kevin Kiermaier, your Gold Gloves appear to be well deserved.)

Still, the stats aren’t perfect. They don’t account for the direction the fielder has to run in, which means that they treat running forward the same as backpedaling. They don’t incorporate any information about an outfielders’ throws, so a strong and accurate arm counts for nothing. And they are only available for the outfield. Statcast still has major issues tracking grounders (losing as much as 20 percent of all balls in the dirt), so for now, the much more complex mystery of infield defense remains unsolved.

Perhaps the biggest problem with these defensive statistics is that they are not being released in full to the public. While MLB is providing snippets of the data in leaderboards and tweets, the complete data set is being kept under wraps. Front office insiders I’ve spoken to have pointed to issues with the data’s quality and the influence of teams eager to keep their analytics edge as two barriers to the data set’s full release. At a crucial point in Statcast’s development, it’s reasonable to wonder whether the data stream will eventually become fully public (like PITCHf/x) or whether it will remain a tool primarily for the front office (like the NBA’s SportVU camera system). –Rob

Is the Tommy John era over?

Two years ago, we were in the midst of a Tommy John epidemic. Elbow ailments felled major stars like Yu Darvish and laid waste to pitching staffs. But last year, Ben Lindbergh and I noted that Tommy John surgeries had suddenly dropped. And so far this spring — usually the most active time for players to be diagnosed with elbow issues — the scourge of Tommy John has become almost a nonissue.

Just when it seemed like Tommy John surgery was becoming a generation-defining problem, it has almost disappeared. Many of the ace pitchers who lost a year to the ailment have returned in force, including Darvish, who has regained most of his efficacy. Even when pitchers suffer ligament damage, doctors are increasingly prescribing less disruptive treatments than the operating table.

In prior eras, when one pitching injury died down, another one appeared. Before Tommy John, there were more severe shoulder injuries, which claimed many a young pitcher’s career. With one problem solved, we could be waiting for another crisis to begin. But let’s take a rare opportunity to be optimistic: we could be entering a new golden era of pitcher health! Back to the pessimism: That notion should frighten MLB’s hitters. If pitchers don’t need to worry about their shoulders or their elbows, they could dominate hitters like never before. –Rob


Will rule changes really speed up the game?

MLB unveiled some controversial rules changes this offseason, primarily targeted at speeding up the pace of the game. A couple of new wrinkles concern replays: managers will have only 30 seconds to decide whether to call for a replay, and reviews will be capped at two minutes. The most significant alteration eliminates the ritual of the intentional walk, requiring only a hand signal to send the batter off to first base.

The impact of this rule change will be minor because intentional walks are already uncommon and becoming more so. The same goes for the new replay rules, which might shorten a handful of interminable delays per season, but won’t affect most umpire reviews, which don’t last long enough to run into the new restrictions.

The real objective in these changes is Rob Manfred’s crusade since becoming commissioner: to speed up the pace of game. But if that’s the goal, Manfred is focused on the wrong things. Since 2008, most of the slowdown has come from players taking their sweet time between pitches, not uncommon events like replays and intentional walks. To truly pick up the pace of play, the commissioner will likely need to deploy an even more radical solution, like adding a pitch clock. But doing so would require the cooperation of the players’ union, which doesn’t want to disrupt the current pace. As a result, Manfred will likely have to chew on the edges without ever solving the underlying problem. –Rob


Will the offensive renaissance continue?

The long ball is back. In the last two years, offense has spiked from a three-decade low, a surge powered almost entirely by home run rates reminiscent of the Steroid Era. And no one is sure why.

There are theories. Some have proposed that players are attempting to hit more fly balls, which are more likely to get over the fence. Others have suggested that players are using more granular data to improve their swings. But most explanations don’t survive scrutiny.

In a series of articles, Ben Lindbergh and I developed the theory that a different ball is the source of the offensive spike. If a juiced ball is to blame, then MLB’s offensive explosion ought to continue. And since MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has made it a priority to increase offense in the league, runs per game may soar even higher. Still, without knowing definitively why offense has spiked, it’s impossible to say whether the trend will continue. –Rob


Is pitch framing still worth anything?

Pitch framing was once a darling of sabermetrics, a stat and a method by which catchers could prove that they provided more value to their teams than the guys competing for their roster spots. For many of those catchers, all those frames add up to several wins over the course of a season. At least, they used to. Pitch framing might be be losing its value.

In recent articles, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan has argued that as more teams have exploited pitch framing, the gap between the best and worst catchers has shrunk. With no absolutely terrible receivers in baseball any more, the average framing skill jumped and the value of being a great framer has declined. Paradoxically, all the attention paid to the significance of pitch framing has made it less significant.

In hindsight, the demise of framing seems inevitable. Modern front offices eagerly target undervalued skills until they aren’t undervalued anymore. Once they discovered framing and learned to target or develop the skill, it was only a matter of time before most catchers in baseball became good at it. Rather than being a bonus, pitch framing is now a prerequisite. –Rob


Is MLB’s era of parity over?

We tend to think parity in sports is a good thing. A more level playing field means a higher chance that any team could win, after all. But there’s a fine line between a league with a healthy competitive balance and one where every team is just plain mediocre.

For a long while, MLB was slouching toward mediocrity — or at least uniformity. In 2014, 23 of the 30 MLB teams won between 70 and 90 ballgames, a relatively narrow range differentiated only by an extra win every 9 days or so. Things got even more compressed in 2015, when a third of the league squeezed itself between 76 and 84 wins, which is far more teams around .500 than usual and indicative of a broader trend in baseball: The spread between the best and worst teams had shrunk rapidly, hitting its lowest level in decades. We can illustrate this by tracking changes in the standard deviation of wins (and wins above replacement) over time — essentially measuring how compressed the range of talent across the game has been.

This trend had a number of consequences, including making the sport less predictable and allowing luck to play a larger role in the outcome of the season.

But 2016 was the year baseball may have begun to swing back in the opposite direction. Last year, far fewer teams were stuck in that middle range of wins compared to the previous two seasons. More clubs were either clearly good or clearly bad — as symbolized by the symmetry of a league-best 103 wins for the Chicago Cubs and league-worst 103 losses for the Minnesota Twins.

Moreover, the correlation between payroll and wins (or WAR) in 2016 was easily the highest it had been for MLB since the late 1990s. Back then, the relationship between money and wins triggered a moral panic of sorts in the commissioner’s office, so it remains to be seen whether a similar crisis will emerge again 20 years later. But last season’s strong correlation — in conjunction with 2017’s unusually top-heavy projected standings — suggests that teams are getting more of what they’re paying for now than they have in a while, and we’re probably due for less parity as a result. –Neil

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Posted by Ben Casselman

For years, advocates for LGBTQ rights have pushed the federal government to collect better data on their community — data they believe could help them fight discrimination, improve government programs and increase their political influence. So there was a mix of excitement and confusion Tuesday when a single line buried at the end of an obscure report seemed to suggest that the Census Bureau planned to begin asking about sexual orientation and gender identity for the first time.

Hours later, the line disappeared from the report, leaving only the confusion: Why was the line there to begin with and why was it deleted? Some groups saw evidence of political interference from the White House. “The Trump administration has taken yet another step to deny LGBTQ people freedom, justice and equity, by choosing to exclude us from the 2020 Census and American Community Survey,” the National LGBTQ Task Force, an advocacy group, said in a press release Tuesday evening.

The Census Bureau says it never planned to ask about gender identity or sexual orientation and that the since-deleted line in the report was included by mistake. Several census experts said they doubted the census had been close to adding questions on those topics in any case — regardless of who was in the Oval Office — although they also said it is possible Trump’s administration could make such additions less likely in the future. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

But whether or not Trump or his advisers played a role in this particular decision (we still don’t know), there is evidence that the new administration plans to pull back on recent efforts by government agencies to collect more data on the gay, lesbian and transgender population. And there are larger questions about Trump’s commitment to accurate, independent data collection; he and his advisers have repeatedly questioned government economic statistics, for example, and the preliminary budget released this month included far less funding for the Census Bureau than many experts consider necessary for an accurate population count.

The decision not to include new questions on orientation or identity “certainly could be viewed as part of a broader attack” on the collection of data on LGBTQ people, said Terri Ann Lowenthal, a consultant and former congressional staffer who follows census issues.

The document released online on Tuesday was a list of subjects that the government plans to include in the 2020 decennial census and the annual American Community Survey. Most of the proposals, which were submitted to Congress as part of a legally mandated process, were unchanged from past years: The census, the constitutionally mandated effort to count everyone living in the country, will ask about only a handful of core demographic topics such as age, sex and race. The American Community Survey, the mandatory survey sent to about 3.5 million households each year, will ask about a wider range of issues such as income, education, disability status and citizenship.

LGBTQ groups had been working with the Census Bureau to explore adding questions on sexual orientation and gender identity, and some of them hoped to see those questions — or at least an update on their status — in the new document. They were disappointed: The subjects weren’t listed in the main report. An appendix at the end, however, presented a table showing the various topics and the years they were first included in the surveys. Near the bottom of the list was “sexual orientation and gender identity”; in place of a year, the table said simply, “proposed.” The line sparked discussion among census watchers and attracted some media attention; by the afternoon, the document had been updated to remove the item.

In a blog post Wednesday evening, Census Bureau Director John Thompson, who has led the bureau since 2013, wrote that the line in the appendix had been included “due to an error.” In a subsequent email to me, a census spokeswoman said the bureau had explored adding questions on orientation and identity, and that as part of that process a “working copy of the report had a section” on those subjects. “That section of the report was removed prior to publication, but was inadvertently left in the appendix,” the email continued. The bureau did not respond to a follow-up email asking when the section was removed.

LGBTQ advocates weren’t reassured by that explanation. “The only reasonable conclusion is they’re getting some direction from the White House,” said Meghan Maury of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

Other experts, however, said they doubted the bureau would have been ready to include questions on orientation and identity in the 2020 census even under a different president. Gary Gates, a demographer who has long advocated for collecting better data on the LGBTQ population, said adding questions to the census or ACS requires an extensive vetting and testing process that usually takes years. And Gates, who served on the Census Bureau’s scientific advisory committee until last year, said the bureau is especially wary of adding potentially controversial questions at a time when its surveys are already under political scrutiny from some Republicans in Congress.

“I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that there was never a plan to add sexual orientation or gender identity to the 2020 census,” Gates said. “That just wasn’t happening. It wasn’t even being considered.”

But Gates and other researchers said they thought the bureau had been moving toward including such questions in the future, and they said they worried that such progress will now slow or stop under Trump. The administration has already taken steps to remove questions about sexual orientation from two lower-profile government surveys.

“You pair these things together and it starts to suggest this trend of the administration trying to make invisible the LGBT population,” said Laura Durso, a researcher on LGBT issues at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.

In his blog post Wednesday, Thompson wrote that a Census Bureau review “concluded there was no federal data need to change the planned census and ACS subjects.” But Durso said the government needs information on the LGBT population in order to identify discrimination and allocate funds for programs. And Thompson’s blog post noted that last April, more than 75 members of Congress, including a few Republicans, wrote to the bureau asking it to include questions about orientation and identity on the ACS; in June, then-Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro made a similar request.

The data matters to advocacy groups for another, related reason: political clout. Groups that represent seniors, for example, can use census data to show representatives in Congress how many of their constituents are seniors. Without data on orientation or sexuality, LGBT groups can’t do the same. But Durso said there are also less practical reasons LGBT people want the questions added.

“I do think there’s value in seeing the federal government recognize your community,” Durso said. “In this very nerdy but I think very meaningful way, it says that you count.”

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Posted by Walt Hickey

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the numbers tucked inside the news.

2 years

Two allies of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were sentenced to prison over their involvement in politically motivated traffic jams near the George Washington Bridge. Bridget Anne Kelly was sentenced to a year and a half in prison and Bill Baroni was sentenced to two years. Both will have to perform community service and pay thousands of dollars in fines and restitution. [Bloomberg]

3 terms

A three-term member of Congress has stepped forward to be the Democrat who loses the Texas Senate race in 2018. Rep. Beto O’Rourke plans to announce on Friday his candidacy to challenge incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, continuing the Texas tradition of bold Democrats laying down their careers to pose a moderate speed bump for a Republican’s waltz to victory. [The Houston Chronicle]

4 years

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and the state’s Republican-controlled legislature may have agreed on a bill that would overturn House Bill 2, the law that barred city-level LGBT discrimination protections and forced transgender people to use the public bathroom of their birth sex. The new bill would put a four-year moratorium on new city ordinances protecting LGBT rights; LGBT advocates say the deal will “continue to actively discriminate against the LGBT community.” [The News & Observer]

35 minutes

SB Nation compared two virtually identical baseball games — 11-2 final score, 27 baserunners, about 270 pitches, about 75 batters — but one took place in 1984 and the other in 2014. The 2014 game, like many baseball games these days, was way too long, a full 35 minutes longer than the 2 hour 31 minute outing of 1984. Most of that extra time came from the time between pitches getting longer. [SB Nation]

68 contenders

To cap off Mars Month here at FiveThirtyEight, we ran Mars Madness, where we pitted 68 Martian missions and planetary features in a head-to-head bracket voted on by readers. My personal favorite — Korabl 11, a satellite that the U.S. government thought was an intercontinental ballistic missile as it crashed into earth — did not do well, but the Curiosity rover did. [FiveThirtyEight]

$150 million

Republican Senators John McCain and Mike Enzi reintroduced legislation that would kill the penny, cut the cost of making nickels and replace the dollar bill with a $1 coin. Just that last one — switching to dollar coins — could save the country $150 million annually. [U.S. Senate]

If you see a significant digit in the wild, send it to @WaltHickey.

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Posted by Juli Clover

Apple today shared three new videos that are part of its ongoing iPad Pro advertising campaign, which features tweets from actual Twitter users complaining about problems that Apple suggests can be fixed with an iPad Pro. "Real problems... answered" is the campaign's tagline.

All of the videos are 15 seconds in length, the ideal size for sharing on social media, where the spots have been featured.

The first video features a tweet that says "My laptop weighs five million tons..." which is used as the basis to highlight the iPad Pro's weight (about than a pound) and its ability to run apps like Excel and PowerPoint.

In the second video, a Twitter user complains about needing to get out of her dorm room, which is answered with "Well, get out of there! You know your iPad Pro can hold your textbooks and notes so you can study just about anywhere."

The third video features a tweet complaining about a dead laptop battery during a flight, which is used to point out the all day battery life of the iPad Pro.

Apple's been running its Twitter-based iPad Pro advertising campaign since mid-February. It uses real tweets from real people, but actors are used in the videos to hold up signs and do the voiceovers. Videos so far have focused on features like the Apple Pencil, its range of note taking capabilities, its slim size and portability, its range of software, and more.

Tag: Apple ads

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Mar. 30th, 2017 11:00 pm
[syndicated profile] maru_feed

Posted by mugumogu


Hana:[Something moves under my buttocks.]


Hana:[Who are you?]

Hana:[It is a raccoon dog.]


Maru:[I pass here.]

Maru:[I think I stepped on something. But I don’t worry about it.]

Hana:[It’s dangerous here. It isn’t possible to relax.]

It’s each other, isn’t it?

[syndicated profile] io9_feed

Posted by Beth Elderkin

From 1953's Cat-Women of the Moon to Futurama’s “Amazon Women in the Mood,” there’s long been a sub-genre of science fiction about planets full of women. Long touted as examples of female autonomy, most of them wind up being nothing more than male power fantasies, as one video essay shows.


[syndicated profile] io9_feed

Posted by James Whitbrook

A few years ago, Marvel released a wild miniseries called Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe. Seems like Wade Wilson had so much fun murdering everyone that he’s about to dive in for round two.


Alien conversation

Mar. 30th, 2017 11:29 pm
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
Alien: If it's better, why isn't all your food "fair"?
Me: There are many things I am ashamed of about out society.
Alien: What is "guilt-free" food? Is it like fair food, but even more so?
Me: Many many things.
[syndicated profile] languagelog_feed

Posted by Mark Liberman

Or maybe, "What is vamping, and how could the Trump administration redo it?"  Perhaps because I was very tired, that was my reaction to this story by Nia-Malika Henderson, "April Ryan asked the most important question of the Trump presidency", CNN 3/30/2017:

After a contentious — and some said condescending, sexist and racist — back-and-forth with White House reporter April Ryan at a press briefing Tuesday, Sean Spicer tried to get over the dust-up at the Wednesday briefing.

He called on the American Urban Radio Networks correspondent first, and the two exchanged forced pleasantries. Moving on, folks, was the clear message. Nothing to see here. We are professionals and combat happens.

But, lost amid that Tuesday exchange was the actual substance of Ryan's question. It was an important one, which goes to the heart of where President Donald Trump finds himself — the Gallup daily tracking poll has Trump at 35%, a new low.

Ryan asked: How does this administration try to revamp its image?

Of course I know what it means to revamp something:  "give new and improved form, structure, or appearance to".  But just what would the administration be re-ing if did revamp its image?

I knew about the musical vamp, a "repeating musical figure", and the stereotypical seductress vamp from "vampire". But in this case, those senses suggest bad jokes rather than a plausible etymology.

So I looked it up — and the OED tells me that vamp comes from

Old French avanpié (12th cent.; later French avantpied ), < avan(t) before + pié foot.

and means

That part of hose or stockings which covers the foot and ankle; also, a short stocking, a sock. Now dial.


The part of a boot or shoe covering the front of the foot; U.S., that part between the sole and the top in front of the ankle-seams.

So revamping is something that cobblers (used to) do, to replace the front part of a boot or shoe's uppers.

Anyhow, vamp in this sense is a word that I've somehow managed to avoid learning so far in my life, probably because I've never actually (known anyone who) had a boot or shoed revamped. (Though I'm old enough to have had a few soles and/or heels replaced…)


[syndicated profile] macrumors_feed

Posted by Juli Clover

iOS 10.3, released earlier this week, fixes a major vulnerability that could cause iPhones to repeatedly dial 911, reports The Wall Street Journal. In the United States, 911 is an emergency telephone number that summons police, fire, and EMS services.

The 911 security flaw surfaced in October after an 18-year-old iOS developer in Arizona discovered and published code that would cause an iPhone to dial 911 over and over again. The teenager was arrested after the 911 system in Surprise, Arizona was overwhelmed with more than 100 hang-up calls in just minutes.

Because the code was published online, thousands of accidental 911 calls were placed across the United States, demonstrating an effective cyberattack method that could severely disrupt emergency services.

The code exploited an iPhone feature that allows users to click on a phone number in a text message or on a webpage and immediately dial that number. With the iOS 10.3 update, iPhones always require secondary confirmation before automatically calling a number using that method.
Apple says the update supersedes that capability and now requires users to always press a second confirmation before initiating a call.

Apple says it initially worked with app developers to fix the vulnerability, and this update will now prevent it from happening even on apps that hadn't already fixed the issue.
iOS 10.3, which introduces features like Find My AirPods and a new Apple Filesystem, also includes dozens of major security fixes. Another major iOS 10.3 bug fix, which could result in endless Safari pop-ups that "locked" the Safari app, was outlined earlier this week.

Related Roundup: iOS 10

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not doing april fool's day

Mar. 30th, 2017 03:08 pm
alatefeline: Painting of a cat asleep on a book. (Default)
[personal profile] alatefeline
If you are like me, April Fool's Day never made much sense, and people were not kind about it. This will be a safe spot away from that if I can manage it. I like holidays, I like humor, I like Spring, I do NOT like non-consensual teasing and pranking.

Following meme modified from [personal profile] bookblather
Okay, folks. As April first is Saturday, I hereby pledge not to post any pranks, jokes, false links, or screamers. Nothing originating on this blog will be a prank or deliberately incorrect. If I re-post or link to other people’s pranks, which I may, they will be clearly marked so you don't click on them and think they're real.

No direct links to howling horribleness, and no 'alternative facts', will ever purposefully appear on this blog. If one does, it's a hack or something changed, or I messed up; please let me know immediately so I can fix it.

Stay safe out there, my dears! We non-pranksters have got your back.
lannamichaels: text: "Tell us about it, Janet" (tell us about it janet)
[personal profile] lannamichaels

The cough is mostly gone! \o/ The hip area pain is mostly gone! \o/

For some reason my chest is tight? /o\ But at least this is back to normal pain \o/

I was totally sick-from-the-trip longer than I actually was on the trip, and that's not even counting the fact that I *got sick* halfway through the trip.

Now I need to commit to pesach plans /o\ /o\ /o\

Trump, the internet, and privacy

Mar. 30th, 2017 05:02 pm
ithiliana: Image shot from ground up through branches of tulip poplar tree, green and gold and blue. (Default)
[personal profile] ithiliana
I am so going to donate to this effort when the next paycheck arrives:


(plans to buy internet histories of politicians and make them public).

And I was snickering while reading the Trumps' Troll Fans are outraged at this attack on their internet privacy:

torachan: (Default)
[personal profile] torachan
This was such an awesome show! I saw them ten years ago when they were touring for their first album and really enjoyed the show, but this was so much better.

I was coming from work and didn't end up getting off as early as I'd hoped I would, but I knew there were two opening acts, so I wasn't worried about being late. I ended up missing the first opening act, Saint Motel, completely, and the second act, MisterWives, started up about five to ten minutes after I got seated. I'd never heard them (or heard of them) before, but they were pretty good.

Panic came out right at nine and played for about an hour and a half, straight through with no encores.

I wasn't sure if they would do any of their really early stuff or not, but they did a medly of songs from the first album, as well as I Sing Songs Not Tragedies towards the end. The only song they did from their second album was Nine in the Afternoon, which is the only one I know (and I like it) so that was fine! I was a bit bummed they didn't do Memories from Vices and Virtues, as that's one of my all-time favorite Panic songs, but otherwise I'm pretty pleased with the selection.

1. Don't Threaten Me with a Good Time
2. LA Devotee
3. Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)
4. Golden Days
5. Vegas Lights
6. A Fever You Can't Sweat Out Medley
7. Hallelujah
8. Nine in the Afternoon
9. Miss Jackson
10. This Is Gospel
11. Death of a Bachelor
12. The Ballad of Mona Lisa
13. Movin' Out (Billy Joel cover)
14. Emperor's New Clothes
15. Nicotine
16. Crazy=Genius
17. Let's Kill Tonight
19. Girls/Girls/Boys
20. Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen cover)
21. I Write Sins Not Tragedies
22. Victorious

After Miss Jackson, Brendan went backstage and then appeared at the other end of the arena, rising up from the floor with a piano. He performed This Is Gospel there and then did Death of a Bachelor while walking through the crowd back to the stage, which was pretty awesome. I was up fairly high, so nowhere near him, but it was still cool to see him weaving through the crowd.

The other big event was that people had been given multi-colored paper hearts at the gate and were told to put them against their phone's flashlight at a certain time, and then when everyone did that at once, the audience formed a rainbow of lights like the pride flag. Then Brendan shouted out "Donald Trump can suck my dick" before launching into Girls/Girls/Boys, with the faces of various famous queer people up on the screens behind him, and then he did Bohemian Rhapsody as a tribute to Freddie Mercury.

He also did a drum solo around then that the internet tells me was a mashup of Bruno Mars's 24K Magic and Rihanna's Bitch Better Have My Money, neither of which are songs I know, but it was fun to watch.

He talked several times about having just recovered from laryngitis, which you'd never know from the way he sang. He did so many vocal flourishes and random high notes.

I know a lot of people were super bummed when the original members split up, but I think it was for the best. I really love the direction Panic has gone in since then and I'm so glad I decided to go to this show.


bcholmes: (Default)
BC Holmes

March 2017


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