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“Yet Another Mass Shooting” in America

Includes video

Note: The original version of this post stated that there have been 43 mass shootings in 25 states since 2009. These numbers have been updated to reflect a revised version of the study referred to below.

The massacre of 12 people Monday morning at a navy yard in the nation’s capital was exceedingly tragic but also alarmingly familiar.

“We are confronting yet another mass shooting,” President Obama said wearily in a briefing later that day.

A study published in January by the gun control advocacy group Mayors Against Illegal Guns*  found that more than 50 mass shootings in 30 states have occurred since Obama took office in January 2009. A sizable uptick from previous years, that’s a rate of more than one per month with an average of six fatalities per incident  (in which a “mass shooting” is defined as an incident where four or more people are killed). And even since that report was published, several lesser-covered mass shootings have occurred n 2013.  Continue reading

For Minimum Wage Earners in California, the Promise of a Pay Raise

Includes interactive charts
Wikimedia

Wikimedia

California’s lowest-paid workers received some much welcomed news this week when state lawmakers approved a hotly contested bill to gradually bump up the minimum wage to $10 an hour.

The legislation, which Governor Jerry Brown has already promised to sign, will hike the state’s minimum wage to $9 by next July and $10 by January 2016, an increase of 25 percent. It’s the first statewide increase in six years, and will give California the highest minimum wage in the nation. Currently, Washington State leads the way, with a minimum wage of $9.19 an hour. California also trails Vermont and Oregon. Continue reading

Fast-Food Workers Fight for A Living Wage

Includes infographic and video

Steve Rhodes/Flickr

As it turns out, a lot of the workers who make Happy Meals aren’t actually all that happy about it.

It was a sentiment made abundantly clear in late August during a wave of one-day walkouts, in which thousands of fast-food workers around the country took to the streets to demand higher wages and the opportunity to join a union. Spurred by protests in New York that began last November, and supported by the Service Employees International Union, the demonstrations took place in front of about 1,000 restaurants – from McDonald’s and Burger King to Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway — in 60 cities throughout the country. Continue reading

Have the March on Washington’s Demands Been Met?

Includes interactive charts
1963August 28, 1963
2013August 28, 2013

In late August of 1963, on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, about a quarter million demonstrators converged on the National Mall in the nation’s capital to partake in what would become one of the largest human rights demonstrations in U.S. history.

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, as it became known, drew a majority African-American presence. Demonstrators arrived by the busload — many from Southern states where Jim Crow segregation policies were still alive and well — to demand greater legal and economic rights. They marched peacefully towards the Lincoln Memorial, and listened to the impassioned speeches of some of most outspoken civil rights leaders of the day, including Martin Luther King, Jr., who delivered his seminal “I Have a Dream” address. The speakers articulated a clear, carefully crafted set of demands, underscoring, as King stated, “the fierce urgency of now.” Continue reading

Six Excellent Resources Explaining the Situation in Syria

On Saturday, President Obama announced his willingness to launch military action in Syria in order to punish the government of Bashar al-Assad for its alleged use of chemical weapons in a recent attack that killed hundreds of civilians. Syria has been embroiled in a state of civil war since March of 2011, when government protests began as part of the Arab Spring. Below are six excellent resources to help make sense of the conflict, why it matters so much to both the region and the world, and what the role the United States will likely play in it. Click on the images or headers to view content.

1. Associated Press: multimedia backgrounder and explainer on the crisis

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2. NY Times: Key questions about what’s happening now and how we got here

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3. Huffington Post: Interactive historical timeline and slideshow

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4. Al Jazeera: An interactive chart of Syria’s global allies and enemies

allies and enemies

5.  BBC: A country profile and fact sheet on Syria

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6. AP: A short video (produced last year) documenting the history of the conflict

Ten Government Leaks that Rocked the Boat

Includes interactive timeline

The high profile trials and tribulations of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, both of whom leaked large amounts of classified government information to the media, have placed renewed focus and debate on the importance of leakers and whistle-blowers in American politics. The following is an interactive timeline chronicling some of the most famous — and infamous — leaks in U.S. history.

Best viewed in full-screen mode

Bradley Manning Verdict Explained

Includes video
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted by military police as he leaves the first day of closing arguments in his military trial July 25, 2013, in Fort Meade, Md. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted by military police as he leaves the first day of closing arguments in his military trial July 25, 2013, in Fort Meade, Md. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Note: Some of the following information is based on Associated Press coverage

Bradley Manning was acquitted, but he’s still guilty. What gives?

Army Pfc. Manningan intelligence analyst working in Iraq, beat the most serious charge against him: on Tuesday, a military judge acquitted him of aiding the enemy. This was the gravest of the 22 counts he faced, and the one that would have carried a possible life sentence without parole.

Government prosecutors attempted, and ultimately failed, to convince the judge that Manning clearly knew  the information he leaked would likely reach operatives in Al-Qaeda.

But (and it’s a big but), the judge ruled that Manning had reason to believe the leaks would harm the U.S., even if that was not his intention, and convicted him of 19 of 22 charges. Manning now faces up to about 126 years in prison (although it’s likely to be much less). Sentencing takes place today (Wednesday). Continue reading

Think You Know Your Community? This New Tool Provides the Data

Includes interactive tool

The U.S. Census Bureau recently launched a nifty free interactive search tool that allows users to obtain basic demographic and economic statistics for every single congressional district in the United States. The expansive web-app uses the most recent data from the  Census’ American Community Survey, an annual study that provides detailed statical portraits of communities across the country. Users can explore their own congressional districts for key data on demographics, jobs, housing characteristics, economic status, and education level. The one catch is that you have to know what congressional district you live in. But don’t fret! You can search for that right here, in yet another handy government web app.

Take it for a spin.

Map: In Legalizing Gay Marriage, England Joins Growing International Community

Includes map

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court let California proceed with same-sex marriages, making it the eleventh state where gay couples can legally wed. The court’s ruling, however, does not impact marriage laws in the remaining 39 states that haven’t extended marriage rights. While public support for same-sex marriage has grown steadily, the U.S still has a long way to go before it joins the ranks of the 16 other countries — spanning five continents — that have enacted national same-sex marriage laws. In 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to legalize the practice. More recent additions include, Brazil, Uruguay, New Zealand and France, which all changed amended their laws this year (in Uruguay and New Zealand the law doesn’t go into effect until August).

England is the latest country to join the fold. On July 15 British lawmakers passed legislation — which the Queen Elizabeth officially approved — that will enable same-sex marriages to commence in England and Wales.

The map above shows the 16 countries with national same-sex marriage laws. Not included are the U.S. and Mexico, where same-sex marriage is legal in only certain jurisdictions.

How California’s Prop. 8 Clawed its Way Up to the Supreme Court

Includes multimedia visualization

How did the Prop. 8 case go all the way from California to the U.S. Supreme Court? Scroll through this interactive to trace the path. Use the arrows to advance, and zoom in to blow-up text size and images. It can also be viewed in full screen mode (click on bottom left button).