Blog

Thankful for Data

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.

It gives us all a chance to reflect on what we are thankful for. I have so many things to be grateful for, including this blog, and you the reader. And I’m grateful for the skills I have developed in data science.

I love the idea that there is truth hidden in plain sight, if only we have the patience to look for it.

And now we have two fun data science problems to work on. First, we are near the end of the vote counting for the 118th U.S. House of Representatives. Just three seats remain! Republicans now hold a 220-212 edge – enough for majority control, but far short of their expectations.

And here is the visualization:

The current state of the House of Representatives, with just three seats still undecided.
Red = Republican
Blue = Democratic
White = party undecided
Click for a full-size version.

Results we have learned since last time:

California-3: Republican state assembly member Kevin Kiley

California-22: Republican incumbent David Valadao

California-34: Democratic incumbent Jimmy Gomez

California-47: Democratic incumbent Katie Porter

Still undecided:

Alaska at large: the entire state

California-13: Merced and surrounding areas

Colorado-3: Pueblo, Grand Junction, and the rural western third of the state

And I now have a Data Challenge from a random person on the Internet. He claims that there was no excess mortality in Europe in 2020, but there has been excess mortality in 2022. (Excess mortality is defined as the number of annual deaths above the baseline for the previous several years.) Since there was a global pandemic in 2020 that has abated by 2022, that seems crazy – but I can test the idea myself. I’m now getting the data from the European Mortality Monitoring program (EuroMOMO) of the European Centers for Disease Control.

I’ll let you know what I find.

Thanks for reading, and here’s to many more years of gratitude!

Where It All Began

A blue sign saying "武汉华南海鲜批发市场" above a gate and parking sign
The Wuhan South China Seafood Market as seen from the street

Three years ago, right about this time, a killer was beginning to kill. We had no idea at the time, but our lives were about to change forever.

Word began to spread on December 31st, 2019. That day, the Municipal Health Commission of Wuhan, China told the World Health Organization (WHO) that a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause had been observed in the city. That cause, of course, would turn out to be the new disease now known as COVID-19. Disease detectives from WHO and other organizations began to trace the contacts of people who had been infected. And their search led them to the one place that nearly all patients had visited:

The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market

The map above shows the Huanan Seafood Market (in Chinese, 武汉华南海鲜批发市场, Wǔhàn Huánán Hǎixiān Pīfā Shìchǎng) was a market at 207 Fa Zhan Da Dao in the Jiangshan District in the city of Wuhan, in east-central China. It appears to have been torn down, but this Google Earth historic image shows what it looked like from space in October 2019, right around the time the virus likely arrived there:

The Huanan Seafood Market from space in October 2019 (from Google Earth)

And of course the photo at the top of the post shows what it looks like from the street.

Wuhan is huge – home to 12 million people – nearly twice the population of New York City. And Huanan Seafood Market was the largest market of its kind in the city. It frequently gets described in English-speaking media as a “wet market,” but I don’t actually know what that means, so I’ll just call it a market.

The market sold mostly fish and other seafood, but one section specialized in wild game – what in Chinese is called 野味 (yěwèi), meaning “wild taste.” Wild game can mean just about anything; an old South Chinese saying is that “Chinese people will eat anything with four legs except a table.” Although the wild ancestor of the human SARS-CoV-2 virus has its reservoir in bats, genetic evidence suggests that it passed through another organism before arriving in humans. The most likely culprit is the pangolin, a small, endangered, adorable mammal native to south China, and formerly a popular wild game animal until its consumption was banned in China in mid-2020.

From bats to pangolins to the seafood market to a few unknown humans, the virus began its spread around the world, as I had tracked for quite a long time on this blog (like this just one of tragically many updates).

As the virus spread around the world, so too did false conspiracy rumor about the spread of the virus. One of the most powerful and lasting has been the rumor that the virus was genetically engineered by humans, either as a bioweapon by the Chinese government or escaped in a lab accident. The rumor started in February 2020, spread quickly online and in person by many well-meaning people and… not well-meaning people.

If the mountains of epidemiological and genomic evidence isn’t enough to convince any of the well-meaning people who have shared this rumor, this probably won’t be either. But for what it’s worth…

I recently saw an Internet Opinion Piece asking: how likely is it that the outbreak started at the market rather than at the virology lab LESS THAN ONE MILE AWAY???!!!1!!??

Surely the Internet wouldn’t lie about such an easily verifiable fact, right? lol

From Google Earth: the Wuhan Institute of Virology is 7.5 miles (12 km) away from the Huanan Seafood Market, across the Yangtze River
The distance between the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Huanan Seafood Market: 7.5 miles

Conspiracy rumors and false information rely on passive consumers who don’t even bother to check whether what they are reading is true. Always check!

2022 Election: And then there were Seven

Three more seats decided, one to Republicans and two to Democrats. Republicans now hold a 218-210 edge, enough for a majority of seats. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-20) will be House Majority Leader.

Updated map – as always, click for a larger view:

The current state of the House of Representatives, with 7 seats undecided.
Red = Republican
Blue = Democratic
White = party undecided
Click for a full-size version.

Results we now know:

California-27: Republican incumbent Mike Garcia

California-49: Democratic incumbent Mike Levin

Maine-2: Democratic incumbent Jared Golden

Still undecided:

Alaska at large: the entire state

California-3: the rural Sierra Nevada mountains and the northeastern suburbs of Sacramento, including Roseville

California-13: Merced and surrounding areas

California-22: The eastern half of Bakersfield and rural areas to the north

California-34: The eastern part of the city of Los Angeles

California-47: Long Beach and coastal Orange County

Colorado-3: Pueblo, Grand Junction, and the rural western third of the state

It will likely be a few days until the last seven races are decided – all are close enough that it will matter which voters follow up to “cure” ballots they cast on Election Day that were later ruled invalid.

What does the new Republican majority mean? Obviously, they will be able to pass legislation with a simple majority vote. As is always true even in the most divisive times, most of this legislation will be uncontroversial and will be quickly passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Biden. Obviously some will be controversial.

But the smaller the majority, the harder it will be to pass controversial legislation. Just as Democratic senators have had to convince Joe Manchin (D-WV) to vote with the party, Republican representatives will need to convince moderates who won in close elections – from places like Binghamton, New York (Brandon Williams, R-NY-22) and Scottsdale, Arizona (Juan Ciscomani, R-AZ-6). Banning gay marriage and endlessly investigating Hunter Biden might be popular in traditional Republican strongholds in the deep south, but will it play in Peoria (Darin LaHood, R-IL-16)?

It’s tempting to say “Republicans always follow the party line,” but historically that hasn’t always been the case, especially in the House. Ultimately this is an empirical question, and we will begin to know the answer in less than two months.

Updates as we have them.

2022 Election: And then there were Ten

Four more seats decided, all to Democrats. Republicans now hold a 217-208 edge, meaning they are still just one seat away from claiming a majority. Don’t get your hopes up (or down), Republicans are leading in enough remaining seats that they will definitely get at least one more.

Updated map – as always, click for a larger view:

The current state of the House of Representatives, with 10 seats undecided.
Red = Republican
Blue = Democratic
White = party undecided
Click for a full-size version.

Results we now know:

California-6: Democratic incumbent Ami Bera

California-9: Democratic incumbent Josh Harder (write your own “that’s what she said” joke in the comments)

California-21: Democratic incumbent Jim Costa

Colorado-8: Democratic state assembly member Yadira Caraveo

Still undecided:

Alaska at large: the entire state

California-3: the rural Sierra Nevada mountains and the northeastern suburbs of Sacramento, including Roseville

California-13: Merced and surrounding areas

California-22: The eastern half of Bakersfield and rural areas to the north

California-27: Northern Los Angeles County, including Lancaster, Palmdale, Glendora, and Pasadena

California-34: The eastern part of the city of Los Angeles

California-47: Long Beach and coastal Orange County

California-49: Oceanside and San Juan Capistrano

Colorado-3: Pueblo, Grand Junction, and the rural western third of the state

Maine-2: Mostly-rural northern and eastern Maine

When will we know the full composition of the House? What will the final party count be? No idea!

The mission of these posts is not to speculate, the mission is to provide up-to-date, accurate, beautiful maps. Stay tuned for updates.

2022 Election: And then there were Fourteen

Six more seats of the House of Representatives for the incoming 118th United States Congress have been decided. Republicans now hold a 217-204 edge, meaning they are just one seat away from claiming a majority. But the opposition party always does well in the first midterm election after a new President. Combined with the five seats that Republican state legislatures c̶h̶e̶a̶t̶e̶d̶ gerrymandered, the fact that we’re even still talking about “Democrats might theoretically get a majority” shows what a disappointing night it was for Republicans.

Updated map – as always, click for a larger view:

The current state of the House of Representatives, with 20 seats undecided.
Red = Republican
Blue = Democratic
White = party undecided
Click for a full-size version.

Results we now know:

Arizona-1: Republican incumbent David Schweikert

Arizona-6: Republican Juan Ciscomani

California-41: Republican incumbent Ken Calvert

California-45: Republican incumbent Michelle Steel

New York-22: Republican Brandon Williams

Oregon-6: Democratic Andrea Salinas

Still undecided:

Alaska at large: the entire state

California-3: the rural Sierra Nevada mountains and the northeastern suburbs of Sacramento, including Roseville

California-6: the northern half of the city of Sacramento, and parts of Arden-Arcade and Rancho Cordova

California-9: Stockton and surrounding areas of San Joaquin County

California-13: Merced and surrounding areas

California-21: Fresno and the southern San Joaquin Valley

California-22: The eastern half of Bakersfield and rural areas to the north

California-27: Northern Los Angeles County, including Lancaster, Palmdale, Glendora, and Pasadena

California-34: The eastern part of the city of Los Angeles

California-47: Long Beach and coastal Orange County

California-49: Oceanside and San Juan Capistrano

Colorado-3: Pueblo, Grand Junction, and the rural western third of the state

Colorado-8: Northeast of Denver

Maine-2: Mostly-rural northern and eastern Maine

As results are announced in these 14 districts, I’ll update the non-misleading map accordingly.

The state of the House, what remains, and what it means

EDIT: I originally said Oregon’s 5th district was still undecided; it was actually Oregon’s 6th district, containing the far southwestern suburbs of Portland

We still don’t know all the members of the House of Representatives for the incoming 118th United States Congress. We don’t even know which party will be in the majority.

Here’s what we do know so far, presented in the usual Mapping Democracy map style. White ? hexagons are seats that are still undecided. Click for a larger view.

The current state of the House of Representatives, with 20 seats undecided.
Red = Republican
Blue = Democratic
White = party undecided
Click for a full-size version.

The current count by party is Republican 212, Democratic 203. Twenty seats are still up for grabs: one each in Alaska, Maine, New York, and Oregon; two each in Arizona and Colorado; and twelve in California. Halfway, at 218 seats, is enough for control – so Republicans must win six of the remaining seats to hold the advantage. That seems likely, but whothehellknows.

If Republicans do get the majority, what happens? Obviously, it would be harder to pass legislation with different parties controlling the House and Senate – but maybe not impossible. Remember that Republicans in the House will face the same Joe Manchin Effect a the Democratic Senate – the closer the margin, the more people will need to be convinced to vote for the party line. And representatives from competitive districts will have an incentive to show their voters that they are willing to stand up to the party line.

With gerrymandering, are there enough competitive seats to make a difference? Yes, obviously – after all, there are still 20 seats up for grabs now, nearly a week after votes were cast. Here are those districts, with information about where they are:

Alaska at large: the entire state

Arizona-1: the northeastern quarter of the state, plus a gerrymandered bit of the northwestern suburbs of Phoenix – parts of Scottsdale and Paradise Valley

Arizona-6: the northeastern suburbs of Phoenix, including parts of Scottsdale and Paradise Valley

California-3: the rural Sierra Nevada mountains and the northeastern suburbs of Sacramento, including Roseville

California-6: the northern half of the city of Sacramento, and parts of Arden-Arcade and Rancho Cordova

California-9: Stockton and surrounding areas of San Joaquin County

California-13: Merced and surrounding areas

California-21: Fresno and the southern San Joaquin Valley

California-22: The eastern half of Bakersfield and rural areas to the north

California-27: Northern Los Angeles County, including Lancaster, Palmdale, Glendora, and Pasadena

California-34: The eastern part of the city of Los Angeles

California-41: Moreno Valley, Palm Springs, and the southern part of the city of Riverside

California-45: Irvine and northern Orange County

California-47: Long Beach and coastal Orange County

California-49: Oceanside and San Juan Capistrano

Colorado-3: Pueblo, Grand Junction, and the rural western third of the state

Colorado-8: Northeast of Denver

Maine-2: Mostly-rural northern and eastern Maine

New York-22: Utica, Binghamton, and surrounding areas

Oregon-6: The southwestern suburbs of Portland

As results are announced in these 20 districts, I’ll update the non-misleading map accordingly.