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How Things Could Go Wrong For Republicans In Mississippi’s New Senate Race

On Monday afternoon, Sen. Thad Cochran, the first Republican in over a century to win a statewide race in Mississippi and the longest-serving member currently in Congress, announced he would resign from office on April 1. The news wasn’t unexpected — Cochran’s worsening health began stirring up rumors of resignation as early as last year — but it still throws a wrench into the 2018 midterm elections, and in particular, the U.S. Senate map.

That’s because Cochran’s seat wasn’t scheduled to be up for election until 2020, so we’re looking at another special Senate election in the Deep South. As you might recall, Democrats have had some success with those recently. Like Alabama, a Mississippi special election will be a steep uphill climb for Democrats, but like Alabama, the seat could fall into their hands under the right circumstances. Several things would need to go right for Democrats to snag Cochran’s seat — perhaps a bad Republican candidate and a bad Republican political environment — but the 2018 Senate map offers the party such slim pickings that even a reach like Mississippi opening up counts as a meaningful shift.

Here’s how everything will play out. Under Mississippi law, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint a new senator to take over for Cochran until a special election is held this November (concurrently with the regularly scheduled midterm elections). There is a catch, though: Special elections in Mississippi are nonpartisan; that is, party affiliations aren’t printed on the ballot, and — instead of party-specific primaries — all candidates will run in one free-for-all of a race. If no one gets a majority of the vote in the first round, the top two finishers will face off in a runoff election.Similar to Louisiana’s “jungle primary” system or the setup used last year in the special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. However, both of those states let candidates run with their party affiliations noted on the ballot.


The nonpartisan setup has the potential to help Democrats, because Mississippi is two things: Very Republican and very inelastic, meaning it has very few persuadable voters and doesn’t swing much from one election to the next. Most voters in Mississippi reliably vote for either Republicans or Democrats. Under normal circumstances, that makes it extremely difficult for any Democrat to claw his or her way to 50 percent of the vote, but in a campaign without party labels (or at least where they aren’t front and center), the lead weight that is a “D” next to one’s name is partially lifted.

And Democrats have a couple of candidates on their bench who could credibly run a centrist campaign. Attorney General Jim Hood is the last Democrat to be elected statewide in Mississippi, and he has won all four of his attorney-general campaigns by at least 10 percentage points (and that was with the “D” next to his name — although it was also in state, not federal, elections). Hood says he’s interested in running for governor, but that election won’t occur until 2019, leaving his 2018 schedule fairly open. Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley (apparently Elvis’s second cousin) was national Democrats’ top choice to run against Republican Sen. Roger Wicker for Mississippi’s other U.S. Senate seat (which was already scheduled to be on the 2018 ballot), but he turned them down in January. Maybe he’ll feel differently about running for a seat without a powerful incumbent.

As for who might run for Republicans, keep an eye on whomever Bryant appoints to the seat. Republicans reportedly want Bryant to appoint someone who will run in (and win) the special election, not just a caretaker. The term-limited Bryant has rebuffed advances from President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to appoint himself. Instead, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann are rumored to be the frontrunners for the appointment. (However, Reeves is also reportedly interested in running for governor.)

The elephant in the room is Chris McDaniel, and not just because he’s a Republican. The deeply conservative state senator mounted a tea-party-flavored primary challenge against Cochran in 2014 and only barely lost, 51 to 49 percent. This year, he’s trying again, running against Wicker in the GOP primary. As of Monday night, McDaniel was saying that he intended to continue his campaign against Wicker rather than switch to Cochran’s open seat, but he also told Mississippi Today’s Adam Ganucheau that “you never want to foreclose options in politics.” Legally, there’s nothing stopping McDaniel from dropping out of the Wicker race and joining the open-seat field.

If McDaniel ran, and especially if a runoff election pitted him against a strong Democrat like Hood or Presley, you would see Democrats start to get excited about their chances in Mississippi. McDaniel has a long history of controversial statements: He has blamed hip-hop for gun violence, said movies should have more Muslim villains, spoken before pro-Confederate organizations, and dismissed Women’s Marchers as “unhappy liberal women.” More than one commentator has compared him to Roy Moore, the similarly inflammatory conservative who famously blew December’s special U.S. Senate election in Alabama for the GOP.

McDaniel is no Moore — the latter’s allegations of underage sexual misconduct set him in a class of his own — but Mississippi is also no Alabama. Whereas Trump won Alabama by 28 percentage points, he won Mississippi by only 18 points. In 2012, Mitt Romney defeated then-President Obama in Alabama by 22 points but only took Mississippi by 12. The Democratic Party’s floor in Mississippi is much higher than in Alabama — every Democratic presidential candidate since Al Gore has won 40 percent of the vote or more — thanks in large part to the largest African-American population (in terms of percentage) of any state (38 percent). All else being equal, we would expect Democrats to have an easier time winning Mississippi than Alabama.

The last time a pollster asked Mississippi voters to choose between McDaniel and a Democrat, the Democrat wasn’t too far behind. Granted, we only have a couple of polls, and they’re old (from the 2014 cycle), but that was also a much more Republican-friendly political environment than the current one.

Make no mistake: Mississippi is still a very red state, and its inelasticity means any Democrat will have to work twice as hard to persuade the few gettable voters available while still turning out the state’s sizable Democratic base. But Cochran’s seat becomes only the ninth Republican-held Senate seat to be on the ballot in 2018, most of them on dark red turf. Democrats must pick up at least two of them (and not lose any of their own) to take a Senate majority. Mississippi is a long shot, but it’s one more shot than Democrats had on Sunday.

The Last 60 Years Of Oscar Nominations In One Chart

John Williams — the composer behind “Star Wars,” “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park” and almost any other movie theme that you can hum to yourself from memory — received his 51st Oscar nomination this year. Think about that. Williams has two Academy Award nominations for every year Timothée Chalamet (nominated for best actor for “Call Me by Your Name”) has been alive — and then some.

Over the past 60 years, Williams has more Oscar nominations than anyone else. In second place: the country of France, with 35 nominations in the best foreign language film category.Why the academy gives the award for best foreign language film to countries rather than producers is beyond me.

“>1 As you can see in the chart below — which looks at the ratio of nominations to unique nominees in each Academy Award category on the ballot this yearCategories that changed names in the past 50 years — but not what they were honoring — are included under their current labels.

“>2 — those two categories are among the least diverse in terms of giving new faces a shot at Oscar gold. Nominations for best documentary, on the other hand, have gone to a wide array of people.

Why Did It Take So Long For The Oscars To Nominate A Female Cinematographer?

At the second Academy Awards, in 1930, Josephine Lovett and Bess Meredith each received nominations for writing — the first women nominated for nonacting Oscars. It would be a few more years — the seventh Academy Awards in 1935 — until a woman was nominated for film editing (Anne Bauchens for her work on “Cleopatra”).

Eventually women were recognized in other categories too, including art direction (1941), music scoring (1945) and costume design (1948). In 1973, at the 46th Academy Awards, Julia Phillips became the first woman to be nominated for producing a best picture nominee, “The Sting.”And she won it too.

“>1 A few years later, in 1976, Lina Wertmüller became the first woman nominated for best director. Women were first nominated in the 1980s and 1990s in new categories for makeup (1982) and sound editing (1984) and old categories like visual effects (1986) and sound (1995).

But before this year, cinematography held out — the last category with zero women among the nominees.Obviously, that’s excluding best actor and best supporting actor.

“>2 According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences database, 238 people received nominations in cinematography for their work on 638 different films from the first through 89th Oscars. And not a single one of them was a woman.

That changed this year. Rachel Morrison, who was nominated for her work on “Mudbound” — and whom popular audiences around the world are now meeting thanks to the blockbuster “Black Panther” — has broken the last glass ceiling at the Oscars.

That achievement is massive, but what on earth is wrong with cinematography that it took so long?

The first part of the answer is easy, and we already have it: Hollywood’s gender parity behind the camera is even worse than in front of the camera. In December, a team of us at FiveThirtyEight wanted to find a new way to evaluate how diverse and inclusive movies are on gender and race — a “Bechdel Test” for the next generation — so we reached out to professionals and creators who work in the movie business to ask what they thought audiences should be looking for in films. We graded films across a whole suite of metrics — how female characters were treated or developed, how supporting casts were built, how the extras and crowds were framed, how films portrayed black women and Latinas. But no metric made Hollywood look worse than the gender composition of behind-the-scenes and on-set crew.

Here’s the test from Jen White, a director of photography:

We found that not a single one of the top 50 grossing films of 2016 had a crew that was at least 50 percent female. Not a single one had a crew that was even 30 percent female or more. And only 23 out of the 50 films could even claim to have one woman in each department as well as one female department head. It was a disaster.

So just by involving a behind-the-camera position, cinematography is drawing from an overwhelmingly male pool.

Still, women broke through in other academy categories that feature behind-the-camera work. Just how male is cinematography that it took so long? To answer that, let’s look at the cinematographers as well as the camera and lighting crews on the top 50 grossing films at the domestic box office — according to The Numbers — for each of the past 10 years (2008 through 2017).I pulled full cast and crew data from IMDb, then specifically grabbed the names for the cinematographer and everyone in the camera and electrical department.

“>3 I classified important cinematography-related positions — more on that in a second — and used to estimate the gender of every first name in the data set, plus the probability that’s estimate is correct.

We can use this to get an estimate for how male camera departments are. The answer is extremely male.

There were 40,314 people credited in the camera and lighting departments of the 500 films in our data set. Of those, 36,604 (91 percent) had a first name that was more likely male than female and 34,263 (85 percent) had a first name that was male 90 percent of the time or more. If we strictly sum the probabilities that a given individual is male based on first name — so “Jack” would count for 0.99, “Jamie” would be 0.53, “Rebecca” as 0.0 and so on — we would estimate that just fewer than 36,600 people in the set were men, or 91 percent.

That gives us 85 percent male at our most conservative estimate and around 91 percent looking at our two more probabilistic estimates. That would make professional cinematography and its related fields more male than barbers, civil engineers, police officers, taxi drivers and clergy, according to Department of Labor statistics. This also means that the upper echelon of cinematography, major commercial studio movies, is more male than, say, the statistics we have from the Department of Labor that claim a broader world of “television, video and motion picture camera operators and editors” — while probably a government-determined subset of the field — which in 2016 was 78.6 percent male.

What’s shocking about this is that while film schools and cinematography programs are by no means balanced, they’re nowhere near as bad as 85 to 91 percent male.

I pulled the number of graduate student completions in cinematography-related fields at the top five film schoolsAs laid out by The Hollywood Reporter.

“>4 based on the data that schools are obligated to report annually to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System at the Department of Education. There were 7,068 people who graduated from a master’s-level program in cinematography, film, cinema and video studies from 2001 to 2016; 2,957 of them, or 42 percent, were reported as women.

Clearly one doesn’t need a master’s degree from a top film school to be a grip on a movie, but it’s not like there aren’t women capable or interested in working in these jobs. And the number of women behind the camera is seemingly diminishing through a career arc — if women are dropping from something like two-fifths of film grads to one-fifth of the U.S. camera workforce to a 10th of the department on major movies, we’d like to know why.

Well, maybe it has to do with the fact that 97 percent of the people in camera and lighting department leadership positions on those top movies were men.

Generally the department is divided into three groups overseen by the director of photography: the camera department, which does all things related to the camera; the electrics department, which handles lighting and anything that needs to be plugged in; and the grip department, the contingent that handles anything that’s not plugged in, like tripods or cranes or dollies or what have you.

The director of photography works with all of these groups but has immediate subordinates who run and staff each individual contingent: the 1st assistant camera and “A” camera operators for the cameras, the gafferLiterally means “godfather,” and the gender-neutral form is something like chief lighting technician.

‘>5 oversees the electrics, and the key grip oversees the grips. Each of those people have direct reports of their own; other camera operators and “best boys” and other department heads, like rigging. They’re important positions that assist people who report to the D.P.

With Jen White’s guidance, I divided camera credits into four general buckets; “tier 1” for the department head, the director of photography; “tier 2” for people who report directly to the D.P.; “tier 3” for people with important jobs that report to tier 2 personnel; and then everybody else, your day-rate or B-unit or miscellaneous grips and crew or lighting techs and camera assistants. There were 5,652 people in tiers 1, 2 and 3, a manageable enough figure to eliminate uncertainty by individually researching the gender of anyone with an ambiguous first name where we were less than 95 percent sure of their gender.

Of the 498 film department heads on those 500 movies,Why not 500 department heads? Animated movies often don’t have D.P.s, and some movies have more than one.

“>6 an estimated 477 of them were male, so 96 percent. Of the 2,261 gaffers, key grips, 1st assistants, and “a” camera operators, an estimated 2,187 were men, or 97 percent. And of the 2,893 best boys, “b” and other camera operators, rigging gaffers and what have you, an estimated 2,818 were men, or 97 percent.

Meanwhile, the “everyone else” bucket of 34,662 jobs — where 1,126 people remained of unknown gender — was (depending on the method of estimation) 88 to 90 percent male.

This is about as prototypical of a pipeline problem as you can get. In a gig-based job market like the ones for film crews, people who control the hiring power control who works. The people who have the power to hire and fire are, with few exceptions, primarily male. The people that they hire for big projects are overwhelmingly male. The pool of people who were able to find any work as camera operators was quite male. This is despite the fact that the contingent of people who graduate in cinematography from the best programs in the country are only slightly male.

Of course it took 90 years for a woman to get a nomination for cinematography. The cards are stacked against an entire gender behind the camera.

Beside The Points For Thursday, March 1, 2018

Things That Caught My Eye

We put some baseballs in an X-Ray

Are the balls juiced? Are material changes to the ball an influence on the spike in home runs analysts have found? Commissioner Manfred says that the balls have not changed, but a number of studies from journalistic outfits, this one included, seem to counter that idea. ESPN took the next logical step and did a CT scan on eight MLB balls. The finding? It surely looks like the core of the balls are less dense compared to the control balls from several years ago. Indeed, a layer of pink rubber in the core of the balls was 40 percent less dense in the dinger-era balls than the 2014-2015 era balls. [FiveThirtyEight]

Lundqvist deserved better

The New York Rangers made 11 of the 12 postseasons since the 2004-05 lockout, have won the sixth-most points, and failed to win a Stanley Cup. In the past week the Rangers have had a fire sale, all despite numbers that bear out goalie Henrik Lundqvist carrying much of the load for the team. [FiveThirtyEight]

Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?

The second week is the only reason the U.S. is not ashamed of its Olympics.

The United States got 12.9 fewer medals in Pyeongchang than our very simple medal model would have projected them getting, underscoring a deeply unfortunate games for a typical Winter powerhouse. Most of that underperformance was in week one, though, with week two serving as a clawback toward the mean from what could have been an even worse games. [FiveThirtyEight]

Philly is experimenting

First-year Phillies manager Gabe Kapler appears to be experimenting with defensive shifts in the outfield. Essentially, two players swapped corner outfield positions when a switch hitter made it to the plate batting lefty. While the infield defensive shift is rather common, an outfield defensive swap is something new and compelling. [Fangraphs]

North America 2026 in jeopardy

While a combined bid from the United States, Canada and Mexico to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup seemed a likely prize after the U.S.’s 2022 bid lost to Qatar in a tainted-by-corruption 2010 vote, that bid appears to be in modest jeopardy. Sources indicated that some voters are unsure if the U.S. can be considered a friendly place for foreigners, and that a rival bid from Morocco may be gaining steam. [ESPN]

MLBPA files grievances

The MLB players association filed a grievance agains the Oakland Athletics, Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays, alleging that the teams aren’t spending money they have to commit toward on-field product in the offseason. [CBS Sports]

Big Number

19.6 percent

That’s the probability that the Phoenix Suns get the top pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. There are seven teams that are virtual locks to make the top 10 draft positions at this point in the season. The Sacramento Kings have a 16.8 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick, followed by Atlanta with a 14.2 percent chance, Memphis with a 10.8 percent chance and Orlando with a 9.3 percent chance. [ESPN]

Leaks from Slack:


The Next Big Thing in Defense?


the angels should do this in ohtani games just to further f— with positional changes on pencil and paper scorecards


Oh, and don’t forget
This guy can swing it

Henrik Lundqvist Deserves Better Than The Rangers

In the 12 full seasons since the 2004-05 lockout wiped out an entire NHL season, the New York Rangers have have been among the league’s most consistently successful franchises. With rock-steady goaltending from Henrik Lundqvist, they’ve qualified for the playoffs 11 times, amassed the league’s sixth-most points, won a Presidents’ Trophy and reached the Stanley Cup Final. But Lundqvist and the Rangers haven’t accomplished the one thing that really matters: They haven’t won a Cup. It’s an almost-dynasty that never quite materialized — and now it appears to be over.

In the past week, the Rangers have traded leading goal-scorer Michael Grabner to New Jersey, dealt star winger Rick Nash to the Boston Bruins and shipped top defenseman (and team captain) Ryan McDonagh to the Tampa Bay Lightning.It’s the second time in four years that the Rangers have traded their captain to Tampa Bay.

‘>1 The fire sale suggests that Rangers GM Jeff Gorton thinks his club doesn’t have much of a chance to make the playoffs this spring — they’re currently basement-dwellers in the Metropolitan Division and sit 9 points out of the last wild-card spot in the East, so he’s probably right. It must be a hard pill to swallow for fans of the Broadway Blueshirts.

Longtime Rangers fans aren’t unaccustomed to spending the spring without playoff hockey. After all, the team failed to qualify in each of the seven seasons leading up to the lockout. The post-lockout Rangers actually were unusually consistent for a franchise that has had its ups and downs over the years. Indeed, this recent 12-year stretch is the third-best (non-overlapping)So, excluding 12-year stretches that contained a common season with ones above it on the list.

“>2 one in Rangers history according to win percentage, trailing only 1968-79 and 1931-42.

Much of the blame for this year’s drop-off may be pinned on Lundqvist, who is having the second-worst season of his career based on quality start percentage. In the past, Lundqvist has taken a lot of the heat for his team’s near-misses and postseason underachievement. But the real issue that has kept the Rangers from getting over the hump is not their star goaltender, but that they were never able to build a winning core around him.

Most of the other successful post-lockout teams share a common thread: Their top skaters (in terms of goals versus threshold, Tom Awad’s all-in-one metric for estimating a player’s value over a replacement-level scrub at the same positionHistorical GVT is available here; we estimated this season’s numbers by re-scaling Point Shares, a similar system that updates in-season at

‘>3) all played together for long stretches. Chicago has Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith; Pittsburgh has Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang; Boston has Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron; San Jose has Joe Thornton and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The top skaters for the Rangers since the lockout, on the other hand, are McDonagh and Derek Stepan — two players who no longer call Madison Square Garden home.

And even though the Rangers have had their share of good scorers since the lockout, none have seemed to stick around for very long. After three full seasons with the team, during which he scored 290 points, Jaromir Jagr packed his skates and headed to Siberia. Then came Marian Gaborik, who scored 229 points in 255 games as a Ranger starting in 2009 but who was — you guessed it — dealt to the Columbus Blue Jackets at the 2013 trade deadline. Finally, there was the year-and-change stint that future Hall of Famer Martin St. Louis spent in New York, which ended with his retirement from the sport.

Lundqvist has been carrying the load

Among the teams with the most total points, the best goalie, forward and defenseman on each, based on goals versus threshold, 2005-06 through 2017-18*

Team Top Goalie GVT Top Fwd GVT Top Def GVT
1 Sharks Niemi 62.4 Thornton 191.2 Vlasic 100.9
2 Red Wings Howard 77.9 Datsyuk 182.2 Lidstrom 128.0
3 Penguins Fleury 134.9 Crosby 247.6 Letang 108.4
4 Ducks Hiller 76.2 Getzlaf 168.5 Niedermayer 61.7
5 Capitals Holtby 94.5 Ovechkin 256.3 Green 93.9
6 Predators Rinne 144.1 Erat 64.7 Weber 128.9
7 Rangers Lundqvist 272.2 Stepan 81.5 McDonagh 79.5
8 Bruins Thomas 158.4 Bergeron 145.8 Chara 138.4
9 Blackhawks Crawford 103.0 Kane 180.1 Keith 149.2
10 Stars Lehtonen 43.5 Benn 126.1 Daley 65.6

* Through Monday’s games

Sources: Hockey Abstract,

All the while, New York has relied on Lundqvist to carry an incredible workload between the pipes to fuel its successful run. Since the lockout, King Henrik has easily been the NHL’s most valuable goaltender according to GVT, beating out second-ranked Roberto Luongo by 35 total goals of value (or about one full, stellar season’s worth). Lundqvist has started a league-high 664 games (including at least 70 in three separate seasons) and faced a league-high 22,635 shots. Among the top post-lockout teams we list above, none was remotely close to being powered by one player — much less one goalie — as the Rangers were by Lundqvist.

But even though good goaltending is crucial for postseason runs, a good goalie alone does not constitute a core. Indeed, two of the three teams that have won multiple Stanley Cups since the lockout have done so with different goalies minding the space between the pipes: Pittsburgh counted first on Marc-Andre Fleury and later on Matt Murray, while Chicago won cups with Antti Niemi and Corey Crawford. But again, each of those teams had something the Rangers lacked: a group of linchpin forwards and defensemen who played significant minutes together.

The Rangers aren’t the only top post-lockout team that has underachieved — the dearth of cups for the Capitals and the Sharks, each of whom has won at least one Presidents’ Trophy since the lockout, springs immediately to mind. None of this is comforting to Rangers fans, however. Their team’s last Stanley Cup triumph came in 1994. Before then, you’d have to travel back to World War II to catch the last time a Ranger drank from Lord Stanley’s favorite mug. The time that has elapsed since includes an immense amount of regular-season success — especially from 1966-67 to 1991-92, when New York managed to qualify for the playoffs 23 times in 26 tries. But playoff hockey is only really fun when you don’t lose — and the Rangers have done a lot of losing in the playoffs over the decades.

And so it looks as though the futility will endure for Rangers fans. The halcyon days of Mark Messier and Brian Leetch are distant memories (and only YouTube clips for Rangers fans of a certain age); it looks like Madison Square Garden will be empty this spring. Perhaps the most maddening part of all of this is that Lundqvist, a world-beating goalie with a penchant for finely tailored suits, will more likely finish his career amid a rebuild than by lifting the Stanley Cup. Hank deserves better — but then again, he did even while the Rangers were winning.

Neil Paine contributed research.

What’s The Worst Best Original Song In Oscar History?

The Academy Awards strive to highlight the most significant annual achievements in acting, the craft of making movies and, for some reason, which song from the last year was pretty good. Yes, the Oscar for best original song is a chance to look back on the small batch of tunes explicitly written for the medium of film. But that’s the problem; it’s a relatively small batch compared with the almost endless number of movies and actors the academy can choose from. It’s not a recipe for consistent excellence.

There are a few kinds of songs that show up repeatedly over the years. You’ve got the mediocre song added to the film adaptation of a beloved stage musical;“Suddenly” from “Les Miserables,” “Learn to Be Lonely” from “The Phantom of the Opera,” “I Move On” from “Chicago,” “Hopelessly Devoted to You” from “Grease” and “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space” from “Little Shop of Horrors.”

‘>1 one of the Disney, Pixar or Bond songs; or the song that wins but isn’t even the best tune from that movie.Looking at you, “La La Land.”

‘>2 There are many years when the obviously superior song — “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” “The Power of Love,” “Eye of the Tiger” or “The Bare Necessities” — loses. My favorite nominees of all are the C to C-minus ballads from extremely popular musicians grasping their best chance to win Oscar gold, such as Bono,“The Hands That Built America”

‘>3 Paul McCartney,“Vanilla Sky”

‘>4 Bruce Springsteen,“Dead Man Walkin’,” and “Streets of Philadelphia”

‘>5 Jon Bon Jovi,“Blaze of Glory”

‘>6 Justin Timberlake“Can’t Stop the Feeling!”

‘>7 or, most of all, Sting.“My Funny Friend and Me,” “Until,” “You Will Be My Ain True Love” and “The Empty Chair”


In other words, I find the best original song category fascinating because its nominees span such a wide range in quality — the most timeless songs in cinema history and songs that prove the music branch will nominate a ham sandwich if Bono or Randy Newman was involved in making it.

So let’s find out the worst best original song. (OK, we’ll find the best one too.) We took a 30-second clip from every best original song winner in Academy Award history and loaded the samples into a random matchup generator. Then we asked people to select which song they preferred. We promoted this across FiveThirtyEight’s social channels over several weeks. It’s not a scientific sample, but with more than 50,000 individual matchups evaluated, I’m confident that this ranking approximates prevailing attitudes toward the winners.Among our readers, at least.

“>9 We can then rank each song by the percent of matchups it won.

I was originally worried that the biases of the audience would penalize older songs over more recent songs, but that wasn’t the case; more to the point, it appears that we’re in a bit of a dark age when it comes to movie songs.

The best era for movie songs appears to be the 1980s and 1990s — bracketed by “Fame” in 1980 and “My Heart Will Go On” in 1997. The best 10 consecutive years of best original songs ran from 1986 through 1995, with Disney Renaissance hits combining with bangers like “Take My Breath Away” from “Top Gun” and “Time of My Life” from “Dirty Dancing” to make for an unmatched stretch of good winners.Note: FiveThirtyEight is owned by ESPN, which is partially owned by Disney.


But which individual songs could be called the best or worst? At the bottom of the pile, there’s “Sweet Leilani” in 1937, “Buttons and Bows” in 1948 and “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” in 1946 (which Judy Garland sang). The worst performing songs of the past 20 years were “I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth” (2006) and “Man or Muppet” from “The Muppets” (2011).

There’s a large clump of songs that won around 70 percent of their matchups, give or take 3 percentage points. Call this the great-but-not-best cluster. Then there’s a gap before you get to the truly differentiated tunes. The fourth- and third-ranked songs — “Flashdance (What a Feeling)” from “Flashdance” (1983) and “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” from “The Lion King” (1994), respectively — both won 77 percent of their matchups. The No. 2 song, “When You Wish Upon a Star” from “Pinocchio” (1940), won 80 percent.

But they’re no match for the best best original song of all time: Judy Garland’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” from 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz,” won 91 percent of its matchups. That’s head and shoulders over the competition.

What’s the best best original song?

Oscar-winning songs and this year’s nominees by win percentage in a random matchup simulation

Win Percentage
1 “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” 1939 91%
2 “When You Wish Upon a Star” 1940 80
3 “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” 1994 77
3 “Flashdance (What a Feeling)” 1983 77
5 “The Way You Look Tonight” 1936 73
6 “Fame” 1980 71
6 “Lose Yourself” 2002 71
6 “Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head” 1969 71
9 “White Christmas” 1942 70
10 “My Heart Will Go On” 1997 69
10 “Que Sera Sera” 1956 69
10 “Under the Sea” 1989 69
13 “A Whole New World” 1992 68
13 “Let It Go” 2013 68
13 “Moon River” 1961 68
13 “Time of My Life” 1987 68
17 “Take My Breath Away” 1986 67
18 “Beauty and the Beast” 1991 66
18 “Skyfall” 2012 66
20 “Colours of the Wind” 1995 65
21 “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” 1947 64
22 “Streets of Philadelphia” 1993 63
22 “Theme From Shaft” 1971 63
24 “The Way We Were” 1973 62
25 “Last Dance” 1978 61
26 “Chim Chim Cher-ee” 1964 60
27 “Glory” 2014 59
28 “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” 1949 57
29 “Falling Slowly” 2007 54
29 “Up Where We Belong” 1982 54
29 “You’ll Be in My Heart” 1999 54
32 “I Just Called to Say I Love You” 1984 53
33 “All the Way” 1957 52
33 “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do)” 1981 52
35 “Born Free” 1966 50
35 “Swinging on a Star” 1944 50
37 “High Hopes” 1959 49
37 “I’m Easy” 1975 49
39 “Jai Ho” 2008 48
39 “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing” 1955 48
41 “Mona Lisa” 1950 46
41 “You Light Up My Life” 1977 46
42 “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” 2005 45
42 “Sooner or Later” 1990 45
42 “The Windmills of Your Mind” 1968 45
42 “Things Have Changed” 2000 45
47 “City of Stars” 2016 44
47 “If I Didn’t Have You” 2001 44
47 “Remember Me” 2017 44
47 “Thanks for the Memory” 1938 44
51 “Call Me Irresponsible” 1963 43
51 “Say You, Say Me” 1985 43
51 “The Morning After” 1972 43
54 “The Weary Kind” 2009 42
54 “We May Never Love Like This Again” 1974 42
54 “Writing’s on the Wall” 2015 42
57 “Al Otro Lado del Rio” 2004 41
57 “Into the West” 2003 41
58 “Evergreen (Love Theme From A Star Is Born)” 1976 40
58 “We Belong Together” 2010 40
58 “When You Believe” 1998 40
62 “Days of Wine and Roses” 1962 38
62 “It Goes Like It Goes” 1979 38
62 “Let the River Run” 1988 38
62 “Lullaby of Broadway” 1935 38
62 “Three Coins in the Fountain” 1954 38
62 “You’ll Never Know” 1943 38
68 “Gigi” 1958 37
68 “It Might as Well Be Spring” 1945 37
68 “Stand Up for Something” 2017 37
71 “For All We Know” 1970 36
71 “Man or Muppet” 2011 36
71 “Secret Love” 1953 36
74 “Mystery of Love” 2017 35
74 “Talk to the Animals” 1967 35
74 “This Is Me” 2017 35
77 “Never on Sunday” 1960 34
78 “The Shadow of Your Smile” 1965 33
79 “You Must Love Me” 1996 33
80 “The Last Time I Saw Paris” 1941 32
81 “The Ballad of High Noon” 1952 31
81 “The Continental” 1934 31
83 “Cool Cool Cool of the Evening” 1951 30
83 “Mighty River” 2017 30
85 “I Need to Wake Up” 2006 29
86 “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” 1946 28
87 “Buttons and Bows” 1948 22
87 “Sweet Leilani” 1937 22

Politics Podcast: A Turning Point In The Guns Debate?



A series of polls shows record support for stricter gun laws in the U.S., so the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast team discussed whether the public reaction to the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, reflects a turning point in the guns debate. The crew also entertains hypothetical political scenarios in a round of political “Would you rather.”

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast publishes Monday evenings, with occasional special episodes throughout the week. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

America Should Have Stayed Home This Flu Season

Influenza isn’t just widespread — the strains in circulation are also severe. As the following chart illustrates, the share of doctor visits for flu and flu-like illnesses has not been this high since the 2009-10 season, when the flu hit early and hard but then quickly declined. (The flu season typically begins around October, peaks somewhere between December and February and peters out by the end of May.)

Still, there’s some good news out this week. Data released Friday shows that, after a steep and steady rise over the past weeks, doctor visits for flu and flu-like illnesses are finally dropping.

The CDC tracks “flu-like illnesses” because viruses other than influenza, such as respiratory syncytial virus, can provoke flu-like symptoms too. Making a definitive diagnosis requires lab testing that takes time and isn’t done in all cases. But what makes influenza on its own noteworthy is that it can become severe enough to kill you — and there’s a vaccine against it.

Prior to each flu season, researchers try to predict which strains will circulate in the coming year so that they can include these in that season’s vaccine. But some years their predictions are better than others. On Feb. 16, the CDC released its latest data on the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine. The numbers showed that the U.S. flu vaccine’s overall effectiveness was 36 percent, which means that a vaccinated person reduced the risk of getting sick enough with the flu to seek a doctor visit by about one-third.

But the vaccine was only about 25 percent effective against a strain called H3N2, a particularly nasty subtype associated with higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths than other strains. And that’s a problem, because the H3N2 strain has been the most predominant this year. “We see lower protection against the H3N2 strain than we see against others, and that’s a consistent finding from year to year,” said Edward Belongia, an epidemiologist at the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute in Wisconsin who has tracked the vaccine’s effectiveness for the CDC over the past 14 flu seasons. The reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, but there are a few preliminary and puzzling clues:

  1. There’s some evidence to suggest that the first flu virus you’re exposed to as a child may orient your immune system to respond best to that kind of flu virus. This suggests that people who were exposed to H3N2 as children may mount a better immune response to it, Belongia said. If that’s true, people older than 50 may be especially vulnerable: “Before 1968, no one was being exposed to H3N2,” he said.
  2. Numerous studies going back to the 1970s suggest that people who are vaccinated every year may not get as much protection as those who get the vaccine one year but not the previous one or two years before then. This so-called repeated vaccination effect is not always present, and “we don’t know what’s driving it,” Belongia said. “It’s very complicated and may be different in children than in older adults.”
  3. The H3N2 viruses can mutate when grown in eggs for producing the vaccines, and that can lead to meaningful changes in how well the vaccine works, even if it was well-matched to the strains in circulation.

What does this all mean? The flu vaccine is helpful, but it’s not enough to get everyone through the winter without coming down with the crud. Even at the peak of the season, Belongia said, only something like 40 percent to 50 percent of the people who seek care for flu-like symptoms actually have influenza. And until scientists develop a universal flu vaccine that’s effective against all strains, the vaccines we have will only reduce the severity of flu season, not eliminate it.

If we want to get serious about preventing flu deaths — particularly if there’s a pandemic or a dangerous new strain — we should also give serious thought to quarantine strategies. The word quarantine carries a lot of political and ethical baggage, but it doesn’t have to mean restricting travel. It can also include promoting policies that enable people to stay home when they are sick.

People who have the flu are very infectious, and if they can stay home from work or school (and the grocery store and post office and everywhere else), they can reduce the spread of the disease. But our societal and workplace norms can make it hard to stay home when you’re sick. People who have a respiratory illness should avoid passing things like money or food back and forth, and yet workers in jobs that require tasks like these may find it especially hard to get (or afford) time off.

“We have many workplaces where people don’t have an opportunity to take any paid sick leave, so you have a strong incentive to come into work no matter how sick you are,” Belongia said. “I don’t know what the solution is, but this needs to be looked at in terms of sick leave policies.”

As this brutal flu season barrels on, taking precautions to stop its spread remains crucial. In many cases, that can mean avoiding public places when you’re ill. Yes, you can spread the flu in the early stages, before you’re flat-out sick, but you’re particularly contagious when you’re in the thick of the symptoms. And in that case, unless you require urgent medical care, the best thing you can do is stay the hell home.

Beside The Points For Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018

Things That Caught My Eye

Team USA did it!

In a thrilling finish to what’s become one of the greatest rivalries in international sports, the Americans beat Canada 3-2 in a shootout after overtime to win the gold medal in women’s ice hockey. Four years ago, Canada beat the U.S. in Sochi 2-1, and in this game, the Americans had to overcome a fierce Canadian power play with less than 2 minutes to go in overtime to win. [SB Nation]

Russia, not so much

Russia has never won a gold medal in Olympic ice hockey. Naturally, the Soviet Union was an international ice hockey juggernaut, but the Russian Federation hasn’t had their luck, winning only a silver and a bronze over the past six games. Moreover, while the Russians at this games are playing great, they aren’t actually playing for Russia, more just the Olympics in general. [FiveThirtyEight]

Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?

U.S.A. not so much either

This is poised to be a rather disappointing games for the United States, with the Americans (as of Tuesday) coming in 10.8 fewer medals than we’d expect at this point given the team’s historical performance in the winter games. Norway is sucking up all the gold in the room, with 9.3 medals above expectations. [FiveThirtyEight]

Louisville actually didn’t win that time it turns out

The Louisville men’s basketball program’s 2013 national championship — and it’s 2012 appearance in the Final Four — will be wiped from the books, as the team was ordered by the NCAA to vacate the wins in light of penalties levied against the school. The allegations that lead to the penalties include a report that “a former Louisville staff member arranged for striptease dances and sex acts for players and recruits.” [ESPN]

Try out our brand new super fun quiz, Which Winter Olympic Sport Is Best For You? I got ski jumping!

The mom did it!

Cross-country skier Kikkan Randall, the only mom on the U.S. Olympic Team, gave birth since her last appearance at the games in Sochi but still managed to not only return to the Olympics but win gold as part of the women’s team sprint race with Jessie Diggins. It’s the first time an American woman won a medal in cross-country skiing, and Randall’s trip back to competition can tell us lots about work-life balance. [Anchorage Daily News, FiveThirtyEight]

U.S. curling makes the final

A 5-3 upset over defending world champion Canada puts the United States in the final against curling juggernaut Sweden. The team never beat Canada before and hasn’t made the podium since 2006. [ESPN]

Big Number

56.3 percent

The percentage of 2017 MLB revenue that went to players in the form of overall compensation, including MLB player compensation, benefits, postseason payments and minor league signing bonuses, salaries and benefits. Looking strictly at the majors, that figure is 50.1 percent of revenues, down about a point since 2010. [The Ringer]

Leaks from Slack:




yes that story rules she’s a criminal


Oh, and don’t forget
Is this the secret to ice dancing?

It’s One Thing For Trump To Like Uranium. It’s Another For Him To Save It.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A mining industry is trapped in a state of slow economic decline and looks to the Trump administration to reverse its fortunes.

That could be the lead-in to a story about coal — an industry the administration has made a point of promoting. But it’s also similar to the story of uranium, the radioactive mineral that serves as a raw material for manufacturing fuel for nuclear power plants and the explosive cores of nuclear weapons. The key difference: Although coal companies have pushed for reduced regulation, representatives of uranium mining companies told me in an interview that they don’t want less environmental protection. They want protection of a different kind, however.

In its efforts to make coal great again, the Trump administration has made a point of embracing the industry, cutting regulations and talking up the mineral’s importance. Uranium hasn’t gotten quite the same level of personal attention from the president. (There’s been a distinct lack of “Trump Digs Uranium” signs, for instance.) But his administration has made several moves in the past year that seem to favor uranium mining interests: It shrunk the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah in a way that would make it easier for companies to mine uranium on hundreds of previously established claims in the area; it proposed ending a ban on uranium mining near the Grand Canyon; it moved forward on a proposed uranium mine near the Black Hills; it nominated a deputy administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency who used to be a lobbyist for a uranium mining company; and it left an Obama-era proposal about groundwater protections at uranium mining sites in limbo — neither approving the proposed rule nor rejecting it.

But while it’s taken outside economists to point out that environmental protection rollbacks aren’t going to save the coal industry, uranium industry insiders say they have little interest in taking advantage of the loosened environmental protections the Trump administration has offered them. “There’s not a big push to start up new mines [on former federal lands]; the price is way too low,” said John Cash, vice president for regulatory affairs at the uranium mining company Ur-Energy. “The market is really oversupplied at this point.” He said uranium mining companies don’t want to roll back environmental regulation. Instead, they’d rather the government block foreign competition.

There was a time when it was good to be a U.S. uranium mining company. During the Cold War, the federal government set up a series of policies that had the effect of guaranteeing uranium miners a high price for their product, said Luke Danielson, president of the Sustainable Development Strategies Group, which consults on minerals development projects around the world. “People made massive amounts of money in this boom,” he said. “But in the mid-’60s, the government realized we had enough uranium stockpiled to last a really long time, and it pulled the plug.” Production rebounded in the 1970s — a time of optimism about the future of nuclear energy — but the output of the U.S. uranium industry has been on the decline since 1980.

That trend continues as old nuclear power plants close and aren’t replaced. Meanwhile, contrary to the collective wisdom of the 20th century, demand for electricity doesn’t seem to have to go up, exponentially, forever. Back then, the industry believed that there would always be new demand and that new power plants would have to be built to meet it, said Nick Carter, executive vice president for uranium at the UX Consulting Co., a nuclear industry data and consulting firm. But demand has stagnated, and the nuclear industry hasn’t had much luck competing, cost-wise, against cheaper natural gas, wind and solar resources. So when utility companies buy nuclear fuel, they are focused on keeping costs low and are looking for the best deal. And that usually isn’t coming from the U.S.

In 2016, just 10 percent of the uranium purchased by the owners of nuclear power plants was domestically sourced. That’s why Cash and Paul Goranson, chief operating officer for Energy Fuels, another uranium mining company, want help on the demand side of the equation. In January, their two companies filed a petition with the U.S. Commerce Department asking for an investigation into whether the industry needs government protection against foreign competitors. Only 14 of these investigations have taken place since 1980, and it’s rarer still for the government to take action. Ultimately, though, Cash and Goranson would like to see the administration mandate that 25 percent of all the uranium purchased by U.S. electric utility companies come from U.S. uranium mines. Fighting foreign competition would matter more, they say, than repealing environmental protections.

But it still might not be enough to rebound the industry to its previous highs or keep it solvent over the long term.

The international market for uranium has been decidedly less grim — at least, it was up until the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan (and the subsequent closure of power plants there and in Germany). That event sent the price of uranium into a tailspin and left the world with large stockpiles of uranium and little demand for it. Even countries usually seen as the big winners in the global uranium mining industry have scaled back production. There are new nuclear power plants being built in China, India, Russia and other countries, said Keith Florig, who is a research scholar at the University of Florida and studies risk and the nuclear energy industry. But those countries’ power plants are primarily buying uranium from domestic mines or from mines they have developed and control in other countries. Worldwide demand for uranium could go up and still leave U.S. producers behind.

One reason that U.S. companies would have trouble competing with producers from those other countries is the difference in environmental regulations. In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, around 40 percent of the world’s uranium came from Kazakhstan, a country that, according to experts, can offer its uranium at a very cheap price because it’s not doing much in the way of environmental protection. Kazakhstan mines uranium by pumping a sulfuric acid solution into the ground and processing the uranium that binds to it. In the U.S., this process, called in-situ mining, is less toxic, but more expensive, using a sodium bicarbonate solution. U.S. uranium miners also have to remediate the groundwater at in-situ leaching sites, something that Cash and Goranson said isn’t required in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan is the world’s uranium miner

Top 10 uranium-producing countries and their share of resources in the ground, as of Jan. 1, 2015

Share of global uranium
Country production resources in the ground
Kazakhstan 41%
Canada 16
Australia 9
Niger 7
Namibia 6
Russia 5
Uzbekistan 4
United States 3
China 3
Ukraine 2

Sources: OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, International Atomic Energy Agency

Uranium producers and politicians from uranium-producing states have pushed back against recent EPA efforts to increase groundwater protections at in-situ mining sites, but Cash said the U.S. uranium industry doesn’t want to mine the way that Kazahkstan does. “We want to protect the environment,” he said. “We think we should be good stewards of the environment.” But that lack of environmental protection in Kazhkstan makes a difference on price — $10 per pound according to calculations put together by his engineers. Cash framed the 25 percent purchase mandate that he and Goranson have requested as a way to make up for that price difference between the two countries.

Of course, the catch is that while the Ur-Energy and Energy Fuels plan would help prop up the American uranium industry in the short term, it doesn’t account for the fact that the nuclear power industry here isn’t growing. In fact, it’s contracting. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s projections for nuclear power demand are even worse than for coal. By 2050, the agency expects the U.S. electric system to use about 20 percent less nuclear power than it did in 2016. Uranium mining companies are asking for a guaranteed slice of an ever-shrinking pie.