Virginia State Senate Battlegrounds for the November 5, 2019 Election


Geographic distribution of vulnerable Senate seats.
Republicans look vulnerable in 7 of their 21 Virginia Senate seats, and Democrats 1 or 2 for control.
Continue reading “Virginia State Senate Battlegrounds for the November 5, 2019 Election”

National Geographic’s Poo Map

How to Map a Public Poo Problem?

A map on “the percentage of people defecating in the open air” is a concept that is both profound and perverse. The map (below) appeared in the National Geographic August 2017 issue, with the title, “A Place to Go.” The article focuses on India, but includes pictures of Haiti and Vietnam. To be perfectly plain, people pooping in the open go in fields, forests, bushes, rivers, or beaches—often due to cultural habits and/or lack of toilet access. This can risk spreading disease, like cholera, and stunting the growth of children due to sickness and malnutrition.


NGkey&top countries


Problems with the Map?

As a former National Geographic map editor, I applaud the designer’s use of brown colors as appropriate for the topic; however, to better visualize the nature of the problem, more creative symbols (below) could replace the boring boxes in the key.




I have a few other more serious issues with the map too:

Problem with Poo Percentages. With the exception of India, the use of percentages in the map legend results in smaller countries being highlighted rather than more populous countries, which possess prodigious piles of poo.  For example, the above table, “Countries with highest rates,” includes Eritrea (population 5.8 million), Sao Tome and Principe (pop. 197,000), and Solomon Islands (pop. 635,000).

Poo Gap in Map Key. Comparing “More than 40” to “25 to 39.9,” there is a gap that excludes 40. The countries of Mozambique and Madagascar (both at 40%) would be in the highest category if the key was changed to “40 or more.” However, on the National Geographic map, both countries were put in the second category (25 to 39.9) by mistake.

Angola’s Poo Color. As a map professional (some would say map geek), I noticed on the map that Angola’s exclave of Cabinda was not the same color as the rest of Angola. This is kind of a big deal — like not showing Alaska in the same color as the rest of the United States. Cabinda is a major oil-producer for Angola, with a population of some 700,000, about the same as Alaska.


War and Poo. The “No data” category on the National Geographic map includes Libya, a country that descended into civil war starting in 2011, resulting in the displacement of people and the destruction of sanitation facilities. This scenario also exists in Syria and Iraq where millions have lost their homes and are on the move as refugees. Open defecation happens in times of war, although authoritarian governments choose to hide it. Cholera outbreaks and epidemics in both Syria and Iraq, especially in 2015, provide evidence of the poo problem. Therefore, Syria and Iraq should be (at the very least) put in the “No data” category, due to government inability to provide basic sanitation services to millions of people.

I would add that North Korea should be added to the “No data (meaning no reliable data)” category due to recent cholera epidemics and the open use of human poo in North Korean society.


How to Make the Map Better?

A passage from the National Geographic article prescribes a poo map solution:

Tiwari moves on: How many people live here? About 1,500, a young man shouts. Tiwari explains that each person daily produces more than half a pound of feces, which means the village annually produces around 300,000 pounds. The crowd murmurs, and Tiwari leads them in a round of mocking applause.

This excerpt links population number to poo production. Changing the map from population percentages to millions of people would highlight more populous countries, as shown in the table (below) from a 2012 WHO/UNICEF report.


It should be noted that China, which shows as “Less than 1” on the National Geographic map, has a poo problem, with 14 million practicing open defecation. This problem was shockingly evident at the 2016 opening of Shanghai Disneyland. A populous country with a small percentage can lay down leviathan loads of poo, with 14 million Chinese producing an estimated 2.8 billion pounds per year.

DisneyLand Poo

While I admire National Geographic for taking on a topic with unpleasant pictures, the map could have been more effective — mostly by using absolute numbers instead of percentages. Obviously, I had a bit of fun with the topic, but analysis of the map design and data was serious doodie.


Georgia’s 6th District: Who Will Win?

Elections elicit different feelings from different people. Winston Churchill once said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” An even stronger quote, reflecting 2016 elections, came from Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “…democracy—what a f**king horror show.”

The special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district takes place tomorrow, June 20, pitting Democrat Jon Ossoff against Republican Karen Handel. The winner will replace Republican Tom Price in the U.S. House of Representatives. It looks like Jon Ossoff has a good chance of flipping a red district. Why? A few reasons:

1. The fast-growing suburban Atlanta district is trending less Republican.
2. Health care looms large, which now is the Republican’s Achilles heel.
3. Jon Ossoff offers a clear vision to the electorate on health care and jobs.
4. Karen Handel and her campaign appear more anti-Democrat than visionary.
5. A conservative PAC ad blames Ossoff for the shooting of Scalise. The ad was widely condemned, creating sympathy for Ossoff.

However, the most important factor is that the 6th district favors Ossoff geographically. Jon Ossoff captured most of the district in the April 18 primary (see map below). Only the far north of the district went Republican. Ossoff could lose additional precincts in the west (Cobb County), but should make it up by carrying most of the 6th district precincts in DeKalb and Fulton counties (south and east).
April18Primary Georgia6th

Pundits say the results of this race could cripple Democrats or Republicans. Nonsense! Both parties will produce narratives to spin the outcome and move on. Of course, this is Newt Gingrich’s old district, and he thinks Ossoff is just another “great liberal fantasy.” Fantasy, or Newt’s nightmare, may become reality on Tuesday, June 20.

Siberia: Russia’s Secret to Superpower Status?

Seems Russia is in the news a lot lately for being an international bad boy (as viewed from the West), so here is a quick look at one aspect of Russia’s geopolitical power.

The 21st century saw Russia labeled as an ascending energy superpower (Hill, 2002). Many thought it could break the power of OPEC, making the energy market more competitive. Most of Russia’s oil and natural gas production comes from Siberia, a geopolitical location that can uniquely serve European and Asian markets (see Map 1). The vast majority of oil and natural gas comes from West Siberia, but East Siberia is growing in reserves and production. 

Map 1. Russia’s energy moneymaker: West Siberia.

But it seems Russia has fallen short on superpower status due to lower commodity prices and limited markets. The price of oil rose steadily in the 21st century from about $26 a barrel in 2001 to $150 a barrel in 2008, then the worldwide recession and oversupply brought prices down to $26 a barrel again by 2016 (Macrotrends, 2017). Regarding markets, there was high demand for Russian energy until the 2009 gas crisis and the 2014 Crimea invasion. In January 2009, Russia halted delivery of natural gas to Ukraine due to price disputes, and this disrupted delivery to some 18 European countries (see Map 2) getting natural gas via pipelines from Russia (Reuters, 2009).

Map 2. European customers for Russia’s natural gas in 2009.

At that time, many felt the Russian disruption of gas supplies to Europe was a warning to the European Union to not interfere with Ukraine. As a result, many European countries made plans to reduce their dependence on Russian energy. Then European countries imposed sanctions on Russia after it invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014. These sanctions put Russia into recession in 2015 (CNBC, 2016). While Russia is still a major supplier of energy, Europe is diversifying its sources of energy to countries such as Algeria, Angola, and the United States (Reuters, 2017).

Lower prices and reduced European markets have hampered Russia’s energy growth and income. Russia looks to the east, especially China, to export Siberian energy; but with pipeline costs high and energy prices low, Russia may reduce exports to China  (Reuters, 2016). Exports to China will increase in 2025 after the Power of Siberia pipeline is completed (see map and image below).


Power of Siberia pipeline under construction.

In the end, Russia needs markets for its energy, especially natural gas, more than China needs Russian energy. Europe continues to move away from Russian energy, and prices are still relatively low as of May 2017, with oil hovering around $50 a barrel — a third of the 2008 price. It would seem that energy superpower status for Russia remains elusive.


Can Russia’s natural gas and oil threaten Europe…
…or is Russia’s energy power an illusion?

Works Cited

CNBC, These are the only sanctions that Russia cares about,, Accessed 2 May 2017.

Hill, Fiona. Russia: The 21st Century’s Energy Superpower? Brookings, 1 March 2002, Accessed 3 May 2017.

Macrotrends, Crude Oil Prices ¾ 70 Year Historical Chart, Accessed 3 May 2017.

Reuters, Exclusive: Russia likely to scale down China gas supply plans, 15 January 2016,,  Accessed  4 May 2017.

Reuters, FACTBOX – 18 countries affected by Russia-Ukraine gas row, Accessed 3 May 2017.

Trump Quake Election 2016

Hillary Clinton should have won the election. The pollsters and most media agreed. Based on Map 1, Democrats would take states in the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast, leaving Republicans with not enough votes in the West and South. Of course, I was wrong, and Donald Trump won on November 8. Election night results were compelling and sublimely surreal as media maps turned increasingly Republican red, causing a geopolitical earthquake—or Trump Quake.

Election Prediction as of May 2016
Map 1: Election Prediction as of May 2016

A Brexit Feeling

On November 7, 2016, Trump referred to Election Day at a large rally in Raleigh, North Carolina, by saying, “it’s going to be a very historic day… I think it’s going to be Brexit, plus, plus, plus.” He was right! Like Brexit, this was a rejection election, where the power of the political elites was rejected, and expert media analysis was proved wrong. The election highlighted anti-globalization and anti-immigration feelings, and reflected a surge of right-wing nationalism.

The Midwest Turns to Trump

The U.S. Midwest formed the nation’s industrial core. Pent-up resentment became evident in old and declining manufacturing cities. Trump’s raucous rallies tapped into a deep animosity felt by millions of American workers who felt they were losing their jobs and economic security to globalization and immigration. Ever the consummate showman, Donald Trump and his “Make America Great Again” campaign captured the hopes and needs of these disaffected people.

Map 2: Trump takes the Midwest and Florida.
Map 2: Trump takes the Midwest and Florida.

Map 2 shows the fruits of Trump’s Midwest appeal. A Republican presidential candidate had not taken Pennsylvania (Pa.) and Michigan (Mich.) since 1988, nor Wisconsin (Wis.) since 1984. Trump garnered enough votes in these states, along with the swing states of Ohio, Indiana, and Iowa, to win the election. Why did Clinton lose? Was it due to Alt-Media, Russians, the FBI, Obamacare, Bernie Sanders, or Jill Stein? Maybe, but essentially 2016 became a change election, and Trump became the change candidate.

  • National vote. Trump won the official electoral vote (304 to 227), but Hillary Clinton got the popular vote (8 million to 62.9 million). This is only the second time since 1888 that the popular vote winner was defeated.
  • Wisconsin. Trump won this state by 22,748 votes, with Trump receiving 1.4 million votes versus 1.38 for Clinton. Lower voter turnout in Democratic Milwaukee County alone cost Clinton some 39,000 votes, based on Obama’s 2012 vote. Historically low voter turnout in Wisconsin was blamed on a new voter-ID law and lack of enthusiasm for Clinton’s candidacy.

Obviously, Trump used electoral geography to his advantage, winning the election by converting Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin with a total of 77,744 votes out of 136.6 million votes cast nationwide and getting 46 electoral votes from these 3 states. Both campaigns faced adversity, but troubles lingered for Clinton, whereas Trump dispatched controversies quickly, often with intense media bashing. It appears that many Democratic voters became disillusioned in the final weeks and did not vote for president.

Trump’s election is part of a predictable cycle where an “outsider” from the opposite party wins the White House. Outsider Democrat Bill Clinton defeated Republican President George H.W. Bush in 1992; next, outsider Republican George W. Bush bested Democratic Vice President Al Gore in 2000; then first term Democratic Senator Barack Obama won against veteran Republican Senator John McCain in 2008. American voters often choose change and those who are largely unseasoned and untested in the ways of Washington, DC.

The Night Before Election 2016

I believe in past votes rather than polls in this election. Polls are skewed because of technology limits and ideological slant. Based on past voting trends,

Since 2008, Democrats have done well in statewide elections with greater voter turnout.
Since 2008, Democrats have done well in statewide elections with greater voter turnout.

I can see Hillary Clinton taking Florida and Rubio losing his Senate seat. The election looks to bust records on voter turnout. Looking at the graph (above), I can see how a higher turnout will reward Democrats.

If Hillary takes Florida, then there is no way for Donald Trump to win. I offer the following map as insight on how the electoral map will look on or after Election Day (Nov 8).

A prediction on Clinton's landslide map.
A prediction on Clinton’s landslide map.

Hillary Clinton should build up a large electoral lead, winning the states President Obama won in 2012, plus North Carolina (won by Obama in 2008) and Arizona (never won by Obama). Arizona was targeted by the Clinton campaign due to the large and fast-growing Hispanic population, the close 2012 U.S. Senate election, and current polls. Obama was able to turn red state Indiana to blue in 2008 due to frequent visits. The Clinton family, Bernie Sanders, and others have campaigned in Arizona to drive up the vote for Hillary Clinton. With some 32 field offices, the Clinton campaign looks to register enough new voters to turn Arizona blue on Election Day; in comparison, the Trump campaign does not have a significant ground operation in Arizona.

Tomorrow we should know whether this geographic analysis is correct–or if I have missed something major. Oh yes, I also predict that Democrats will pick up 4 to 7 Senate seats. Wish me (and the country) luck!

A Month Before the Election!

October 8 is already here, where does the time go! Time to update the map. The electoral geography shown on the map (below) is built on the same premises as my last prediction on August 29—large turnout, disciplined Clinton campaign, chaotic Trump campaign, media surprises, and close polls. Polls will continue to roller coaster, based on the latest actual or perceived scandals rocking the Clinton or Trump campaigns.

The electoral map the morning after Election Day.
The electoral map the morning after Election Day.

This map does not feature any swing states, and it is largely based on recent voting trends—and not so much on erratic and subjective polls. A key factor is an anticipated voter surge that we have not seen since 2008.

Based on this map, Hillary Clinton should win with 369 electoral votes, versus some 169 for Donald Trump. If this is correct, then Clinton will get almost 100 more electoral votes than the 270 needed to become President and 200 more electoral votes than Trump.

On August 29, I explained why Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional district would go for Clinton. However, it looks increasingly likely that Missouri and Indiana could go blue also.

MISSOURI. This state could possibly go to Clinton. Why?

Recent statewide votes in Missouri.
Recent statewide votes in Missouri.

INDIANA. This state could also go blue. Why?

Recent statewide votes in Indiana.
Recent statewide votes in Indiana.

Other purported swing states, like Arizona and Georgia, should stay in the Republican column, even with their large minority populations. Democrats have not won statewide in these states in recent years. It is unlikely that the Clinton campaign could convert solid red states, even if the Trump campaign collapses, because of intense conservative propaganda concerning her (and Bill Clinton’s) actual or perceived sins. In essence, Republican sinners are redeemable, whereas Democrats are not.

Of course, a large win for Clinton in November will not end the controversy, and partisan attacks will continue as Republicans look to 2018 and 2020, following the pattern after Obama’s election in 2008. Speaking of 2018, Virginia may have a large part to play in Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate. A Clinton-Kaine win in November will require Virginia Governor McAuiliffe to appoint a successor to Senator Tim Kaine. The odds on favorite seems to be Representative Bobby Scott.

Does Geography Favor Clinton or Trump?

Candles cast light on election.
Candles cast light on election.

In honor of my son’s birthday and before things get too busy at college, I thought to put down a few words—and a map—predicting the presidential election on November 8. These humble predictions are built on a few premises:

  • Voter turnout will be high, averaging 60% or more of eligible voters.
  • The Clinton campaign maintains discipline and resolves computer vulnerabilities. With two successful senatorial campaigns under her belt, she presides over a fourth presidential campaign.
  • The Trump campaign continues its chaotic rampage, alienating key states and ethnic groups. He is a political novice, which appeals to those who despise the “political elite” but is disastrous in a presidential campaign.
  • The media should harass both candidates relentlessly (in their ad revenue race).
  • The polls paint a roller-coaster race, so pollsters can make money (plus polls are increasingly partisan and inaccurate).
States likely to vote for Clinton and Trump on November 8, 2016.
States likely to vote for Clinton and Trump on November 8, 2016.

The electoral geography currently favors Clinton, and she should win with at least 348 electoral votes, versus some 140 for Trump. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to become U.S. President. A brief analysis of key states on the map:

Virginia. Details on why Virginia will go to Clinton can be found in my recent blog, Is Virginia a Swing State?

Florida. Trump has managed to offend the 3.2 million African Americans and 4.8 million Hispanics in the state. Even Cuban Americans, who normally vote Republican, will likely defect. Clinton has 33 more field offices in Florida than Trump. Independent voters should align with the larger Democratic electorate to win Florida for Clinton.

Ohio. At this time, Republican Governor John Kasich does not endorse Trump, meaning a divided GOP in Ohio. With some 35 field offices in the state, Clinton has more than twice the number of Trump offices.  Clinton won her primary in Ohio, but Trump lost to Kasich. All this adds to the likelihood that Clinton will garner the state, as Obama did in 2008 and 2012.

NorthCarolina BathroomCaptionNorth Carolina. Republican Governor Pat McCrory, deeply unpopular due to the “bathroom bill,” is in a close race for reelection; also, a federal appeals court overturned a new voter ID law. Dismissal of the voter ID law would help Democrats get more votes and a larger victory margin. Another close race pits Republican incumbent Senator Burr against Democratic challenger, Deborah Ross, which could determine control of the U.S. Senate. Currently, Clinton has 26 field offices in North Carolina to Trump’s 1 office.

Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. Clinton should earn one electoral vote from Omaha, with its large minority population, as outlined in Electoral Geography 2016. The Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, is a key Clinton supporter.


States Too Close to Call (Swing States)

A generic Republican candidate would win the states below, but Donald Trump is a decidedly unconventional candidate and his campaign’s missteps could cost him a number of previously red states, as shown on the map.

Missouri. This state is a target for the Clinton campaign, as it has a history of electing Democrats statewide. The Obama campaign lost Missouri in 2008 by only 4,000 votes. Clinton’s running mate, Senator Tim Kaine, grew up in Missouri, and the state could be won with a large turnout in urban areas; however, this is where Rush Limbaugh country meets Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon is popular, but neighboring Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback is the most unpopular governor in the nation due to conservative policies adversely affecting the Kansas economy–this will likely sway voters in Kansas City and western Missouri.

Montana. Obama lost this state by some 10,000 votes in 2008. Democratic Governor Steve Bullock is highly popular and is running for reelection. Clinton’s campaign organization and endorsements in the state are impressive, whereas Trump seems to be taking Montana for granted.

Indiana. Trump’s running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, could help keep this a red state; however, Democrat Evan Bayh is leading in the Senate race. In addition, the governor’s race is tight, meaning voter turnout should be high, which favors Democrats. Obama won this state in 2008 but lost it in 2012, when turnout was lower.

Arizona and Georgia should stay in the Republican column, even with their large minority populations, but polls show that the race is close in both states.

It’s All About Geography

From a geopolitical point of view, Hillary Clinton will likely achieve an electoral landslide, based on past presidential votes, statewide votes, campaign experience in critical states, and the strategic distribution of field offices. National polls, state polls, pundits, and partisan politics may portray this as a close election, but it should be a blue wave.

Mapping Travel Sites for National Geographic

I advised National Geographic recently on two travel books. National Geographic recruited me to review more than 50 maps and to make text comments where geographic information needed to be updated. Research involved lots of satellite images, government maps, and email correspondence; edits made with Adobe Acrobat Pro DC software.

Coastal Alaska

The first book, “Coastal Alaska: Ports of Call & Beyond,” is a perfect destination if you are suffering from the Washington DC area’s heat. August temperatures are in the low 60s for most of the south coast of Alaska, including Anchorage. You can get even cooler by going into the mountains on the White Pass & Yukon scenic railway (image below).

The train travels 20 miles and climbs 3,000 feet amid ice capped mountains.
The train travels 20 miles and climbs 3,000 feet amid ice capped mountains.
Edits to map showing Yukon & White Pass railway (red line).
Edits to map showing Yukon & White Pass railway (red line).





The Caribbean

Mt. Obama, a popular hiking site on Antigua.
Mt. Obama, a popular hiking site on Antigua.
Boggy Peak renamed Mount Obama in 2009.
Boggy Peak renamed Mount Obama in 2009.

For those planning winter vacations, perhaps National Geographic’s Traveler guidebook, “The Caribbean: Ports of Call & Beyond,” is for you. This book includes travel information for tropical islands ranging from the Caymans to Trinidad and Tobago.

A map edit example involves Antigua’s highest point, where Boggy Peak was renamed to honor President Obama. Mount Obama is becoming a major attraction for Antigua (map and image below).

The guide on coastal Alaska was released earlier this year, and the Caribbean islands guide is scheduled for October 2016.