American History

Connecting the past and present

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Affirmative Action: A Heated History (Interactive Timeline)

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In a major blow to affirmative action policies nationwide, the Supreme Court on Tuesday (April 22) upheld a 2006 Michigan voter initiative banning race-conscious admissions policies in public universities. Writing for the majority in the 6-2 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued that state voters should have the authority to decide the issue themselves. In an impassioned dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor — whose own education was impacted by affirmative action policies — insisted the state’s ban would infringe on the rights of minorities. “We ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society,” she wrote. In the eight states (including California) that have imposed similar bans, black and Hispanic enrollment at public universities has dropped, in some cases significantly.

The ruling —  the latest in a long string of challenges to race-conscious admissions and hiring practices — doesn’t outlaw affirmative action policies elsewhere, but it does give other states the green light to enact similar bans.

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What Do Your Taxes Actually Pay For?

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2100_biz_taxforms_0713When Benjamin Franklin wrote that “in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” he left out a third inevitability: fierce disagreements over tax rates and spending.

As long as our government spends a lot more than it takes in, taxation will continue to be a cause of strife between conservatives and liberals, the former fighting for lower taxes and smaller government; the latter for higher taxes on the wealthy and increased revenue for public services. It’s like a boring version of the NeverEnding Story (without cool flying animals). Continue reading

Explaining the Latest Supreme Court Ruling on Campaign Spending Limits

SCOTUS DecisionThe Supreme Court on Wednesday removed a 40-year-old cap on the total amount of cash  individuals can contribute to political candidates and party committees. The latest in a string of rulings chipping away at longstanding campaign finance limits, the court’s 5-to-4 decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission is expected to let new flood of money pour into America’s already cash-saturated political process.

What the decision actually does

It removes the cap on the combined amount of cash that any one person can directly give to candidates running for federal office, or to political party committees. Continue reading

Eight Short Videos to Help Make Some Sense of the Conflict in Ukraine

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So much for the “spirit of international brotherhood” that the Olympics was supposed to inspire.

The crisis in Ukraine has reached a boiling point, with tensions between the United States and Russia at a level not seen since the Cold War. But in spite of the sometimes alarmist deluge of round-the-clock media coverage, it’s surprisingly challenging to sift through the noise and get a good grip on what’s actually going on. These seven short videos do a good job getting to the point and explaining specific aspects of the confrontation.

The latest developments (as of March 16)


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New Age of Voter Suppression Tactics in Wake of Supreme Court Ruling

Includes cartoon infographic

Almost immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision last June to strike down a key oversight provision in the Voting Rights Act, a handful of states enacted controversial new voting rules that had previously been barred. In the third part of his illustrated series (see part 1 and part 2), Andy Warner explains some of these changes. View the full graphic below the slideshow.

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How the Supreme Court Stripped the Voting Rights Act of its Muscle

Includes cartoon infographic

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act significantly weakens the federal government’s authority toi prevent voter discrimination in state and local elections. In the second of his three-part illustrated series on voting rights in America, Andy Warner explains the court’s decision and the immediate implications of the ruling (see part 1 here). View the full graphic below the slideshow.

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The Voting Rights Act: An Illustrated History

Includes cartoon infographic

The U.S. Supreme Court in June struck down a key part of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the first of his three-part illustrated series on voting rights in America, comic journalist Andy Warner tells the story of the Voting Rights Act. Scroll through the slideshow or read it as a single image graphic below.

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Poverty Line Problems: The History of an Outdated Measurement (Infographic)

Includes Cartoon Infographic

Poverty_Line_Problems_Slice6Following up on his last cartoon infographic exploring “the poverty threshold” in the United States, graphic journalist Andy Warner digs into the concept behind “the poverty line,” the origins of that measurement and why it’s considered so outdated today. View it below in full, or in segments as a slideshow. Continue reading