American History

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10 Years After the Invasion: Visualizing Key Details on the War in Iraq

Includes multimedia visualizations and video

On March 20, 2003 U.S. forces invaded Iraq under the false pretense that its government was harboring weapons of mass destruction. Intended to be a brief mission to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime and find the weapons, the Defense Department estimated the effort would cost about $60 billion.  Today, 10 years later, Iraq is still reeling from a prolonged conflict that, according to a recent study, has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion (and growing) and brought a death toll of nearly 190,000 civilians, soldiers, journalists and aid workers.

While the U.S. occupation did lead to the overthrow of Hussein and the semblance of a fragile democracy, it also launched the country into a state of civil war, fueled by an ongoing period of political instability and intense sectarian violence. The U.S. occupation officially ended in December of 2011, but today the bloodshed continues on a nearly daily basis as large swaths of Iraq remain mired in conflict.

This collection of visualizations illustrates some of the war’s cold hard facts, the big milestones, and the many layers of miscalculation and deception. Continue reading

Is It Time To Raise The Federal Minimum Wage?

Includes interactive maps, video, audio
Source: NPR

Source: NPR

 

Much of President Obama’s State of the Union address last Tuesday centered on the theme of boosting America’s dwindling middle class.

“It’s our generation’s task,” he implored, “to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth — a rising, thriving middle class.”

Among the more tangible policies mentioned that evening to further that objective,  the president proposed raising the federal minimum wage – from $7.25 per hour to $9 by the end of 2015 –  and provide for annual cost of living adjustments. (This would apply to most hourly jobs, with some exceptions, including some tip-based work.)

“Let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty,” he said. “Working folks shouldn’t have to wait year after year for the minimum wage to go up, while CEO pay has never been higher. So here’s an idea that Gov. Romney and I actually agreed on last year: Let’s tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.” Continue reading

New Faces In the President’s Crew

Includes videos and interactive visualization on presidential line of succession (Prezi)

Disclaimer: This is a video produced by the White House, not an independent source.

Change is a–coming to the president’s Cabinet.

As President Barack Obama prepares for his second term in the White House, he’ll be joined by a handful of new faces to help guide him through the sausage factory we call government.  The Cabinet includes the vice president and the heads (or “secretaries”) of 15 executive agencies, each of whom helps advise the president. PBS NewsHour Extra lists a good description of each position (you know, in case you’re looking for a new job).

It’s pretty common for a president entering a second term to switch up his Cabinet a bit. Of course, whether the departing Cabinet member has chosen to leave or was told to get packing is not always clear.

Each new Cabinet member is nominated by the president, but most need to be confirmed by a majority vote of the U.S. Senate. The practice of picking Cabinet members dates back to America’s first president, George Washington, who had a four member Cabinet that included Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of War and Attorney General. Continue reading

I Do … I Think? Making Sense of Gay Marriage in the Golden State

INCLUDES: ARTICLE; INTERACTIVE MAP; KQED RADIO AND PBS VIDEO CLIPS

cityhall

For the better part of the past decade, California has been engaged in an epic battle over, well, getting engaged. The multiple court cases, votes, legal victories, reversals, protests, celebration and more protests have kept same-sex couples in an ongoing state of marital limbo and made it downright confusing to keep track of where things stand. Continue reading

Same-Sex Marriage Laws by State

Includes interactive map

The data visualization wizards at the Los Angeles Times put together a great chronological map that illustrates the change in same-sex marriage rights by state since 2000. Click the image below to see the interactive version.

Gay-Marriage_timeline_LA Times

 

Background

In 1996 the U.S. Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), stating that “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.’’.

Under the federal law, states do not have any obligation to recognize same-sex marriages and the legal/financial rights that go along with it. However, individual states have the power to decide – either through legislation or voter initiative – to legalize same-sex marriages. And in recent years, a growing number of states have done just that. They include Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut,  Iowa, Vermont and New Hampshire, as well as Washington D.C. In the 2012 election, voters in the state of Washington, Maryland and Maine also legalized marriage for same-sex couples, raising the total number of states to nine.

In California, same-sex marriage was briefly allowed until voters in 2008 passed Proposition 8, which struck down the law.  A federal court has since ruled Prop 8 unconstitutional. Same-sex marriages, however,  have yet to resume here, and the U.S. Supreme Court is now considering whether to hear the case.

What Are Political Party Platforms?

Includew printable PDF

Flickr

By Donelle Blubaugh
Contributor

What are political party platforms and how much impact do they have in actual political decision-making?

During the Republican and Democratic national conventions this summer, you probably heard a lot about the party platforms”  These are actual documents that communicate the key principles of a political party and its core ideologies. Namely, what’s our government for and how should it serve the people?  Recreational reading, they are not. But understanding them can help voters steer through some of the election-season spin. The platforms actually provide some real, concrete insight into how party officials and candidates stand on critical issues – things like the economy, education and foreign affairs and social policies. Continue reading

Who Votes? 20 Years of State-by-State Voter Participation Rates, Visualized

Includes interactive maps and charts

This interactive graphic, produced by the Pew Center on the States sheds light on how voters in each state, and the nation overall, have participated in elections, from 1990 through 2010. Check out voting trends over time across three separate measures of the election process: the number of registered voters, the number of ballots cast, and the number of votes counted. Visit Pew’s site for the full-size version.