Monthly Archive for November, 2017


The title is in all caps because that’s how the press is responding to the Trump Administration’s likely appointment to the Census Bureau. This is a very politicized appointment to the Deputy Director position, which is typically a career civil servant with operational and statistical expertise. In fact, the previous Deputy Director [Nancy Potok] just left the Census Bureau to become the Chief Statistician of the United States at OMB.

Read the posts and weep:

Trump’s new Census Bureau hire could give the GOP a big boost
Paul Waldman | Washington Post
November 21, 2017
This post concentrates on how bad this pick is and the permission it gives the administration to do anything it wants to.

Now let’s put this in a broader context. All across the government, this administration has been demonstrating its utter contempt for the idea of expertise, that people given great responsibility might actually want to know what they’re doing. The resentment of pointy-headed elitists has long been a resource Republicans have drawn on, and it has expressed itself to a degree in their prior administrations. But they largely accepted that you could appoint ideologues who also have relevant knowledge. In the Trump administration, however, knowledge seems to matter less than ever.

. . .

It’s not like none of this has any precedent. But officials seem particularly unapologetic about it this time around. Trump, to repeat, is not making these decisions. But it’s his brazenness — not just about his own ignorance and inexperience, but about everything — that gives those who work for him permission to take things a step or two farther than they might have under a different Republican president. They see not only his personal history but also his willingness to do things such as appoint members of his family to key posts, and they know that they no longer have to act with any restraint. The result is in many cases a more purely partisan and ideological set of appointments and policies, because people no longer feel that they need to pay lip service to expertise or any broad, bipartisan conception of the national interest.

Leading Trump Census pick causes alarm
Danny Vinik and Andrew Restuccia | Politico
November 21, 2017
The 2020 count might be put in the hands of an inexperienced professor who wrote that ‘Competitive Elections are Bad for America.’

Brunell was under consideration over the summer for the Senate-confirmable job of census director, but the administration declined to nominate him after receiving pushback from Capitol Hill, according to two people who track the census closely.

. . .

“This is worse than making him director,” said a former high-ranking Commerce Department official. “There still is going to be hell to pay on the optics. The Democrats and civil rights community will go nuts.”

The Fewer Competitive Districts We Have, The Better
David Harsanyi | The Federalist
November 22, 2017
The Federalist responds to criticism of the potential candidate: Perhaps Thomas Brunell is unfit to run the U.S. Census Bureau. But his thesis on competitive elections is perfectly reasonable.

Trump Is On The Verge Of Politicizing The Census, Advocates Say
Sam Levine | Huffington Post
November 22, 2017
One former Census official said the White House’s reported pick for a high-level Census post was mind-boggling.

. . . the Trump administration was choosing to make the Census partisan.

“Politics have no business in the Census but the Trump Administration’s leading candidate for the deputy director slot at the Census Bureau, Thomas Brunell, would introduce blatant partisan politics into the national headcount,” Flynn said.

Vanita Gupta, who ran the civil rights division in the Department of Justice during the Obama administration and is now president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Brunell’s appointment would undermine the credibility of the Census.

“With regard to the deputy director, historically and traditionally, that person has had significant civil service experience, strong management credentials overseeing a large organization and operation, and considerable expertise in the federal statistical system,” she said in a statement. “Thomas Brunell is outside that mold. Coupled with the partisan nature of the body of his work, this appointment would undermine the credibility of the bureau’s role as a fundamentally nonpartisan statistical agency. Very little in Brunell’s background suggests that he is the right person for this job.”

Sparks said by picking Brunell, the Trump administration would be making a clear statement about how they see the Census.

“They’re making a statement if he is appointed. A real political statement that the White House wants to have their thumb on the Census Bureau,” he said.

Link to Additional Articles

Mystery of the missing tables

The First FBI Crime Report Issued Under Trump Is Missing A Ton Of Info
Clare Malone and Jeff Asher | FiveThirtyEight blog
October 27, 2017

This is a case of missing tables, rather than missing data. But it is a crucial loss because many reporters and state/local government folks just use the tables for reporting purposes. Imagine if the Census Bureau eliminated the tabular data from the Census/ACS. It would be a disaster.

The FBI portal added a new data tool, but it does not have the capability to produce the missing tables because it requires aggregation of many years. And, even for those that use raw microdata, the published tables provide a useful check on coding/weighting assumptions.

It is not unheard of for tables to be re-assessed and deleted, but this review process did not take place.

Changes to the UCR’s yearly report are not unheard of, and the press release that accompanies the 2016 report, which was published in late September, acknowledges the removal of some tables, saying that the UCR program had “streamlined the 2016 edition.” But changes to the report typically go through a body called the Advisory Policy Board (APB), which is responsible for managing and reviewing operational issues for a number of FBI programs. This time they did not.

Another reason to eliminate tables is for efficiency for the data provider. But:

“How much time and savings is there in moving an online table?” Nolan said. “These are canned programs: You create table 71 and table 71 is connected to a link in a blink of an eye.”

Criminologists Are Asking Jeff Sessions To Release FBI Crime Data
Clare Malone | FiveThirtyEight blog
November 30, 2017

On Tuesday, a research alliance representing two professional associations of criminologists lodged a formal statement of concern with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and acting FBI Director Christopher Wray over a number of data tables that were missing from the FBI’s 2016 Crime in the United States report.

The new head of the Bureau of Justice Statistics is a sabermatrician:

. . .Jeffrey Anderson, a former professor of political science with no apparent statistical background besides helping create a system to assess the strength of college football teams, adjusted for their schedule difficulty.