Law & Power

How laws are made, justice weighed and elections played in the Golden State    

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The State of the Union Explained in Four Visualizations

Includes multimedia visualizations
President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, gives the State of the Union address. (Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images

President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner, gives his 2013 State of the Union address. (Charles Dharapak-Pool/Getty Images)

So, what did the big guy actually say? These four multimedia resources help sort through the nitty gritty of the president’s speech. Continue reading

A Map of Everyone in America (and Canada)

Includes interactive map
Brandon Martin-Anderson Public Domain

Brandon Martin-Anderson Public Domain

Even if dorking out on maps isn’t your idea of a good time, this one’s definitely worth a look.

It’s a dot map of every person counted by the 2010 US and 2011 Canadian censuses. 341,817,095 unique individuals, to be exact. And each person – every last man, woman, and child – is represented by a single point (click “show labels” at right to see location names as well).

It’s like pointillism on steroids (take that, Georges Seurat!).

The map is the handiwork of software engineer Brandon Martin-Anderson, who says he sought to produce “an image of human settlement patterns unmediated by proxies like city boundaries, arterial roads and state lines.”

Zoom into the areas that look like big smudges and you’ll see that they’re actually heavily concentrated dots denoting large population centers.

So what does this map tell us? 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.

Thinking Twice About California’s Three Strikes Law

Includes original video and additional multimedia resources

On November 6, California voters will decide whether the state should revise it’s tough-on-crime three strikes law. If passed, Proposition 36 would reduce sentences for second and third strike offenders. Opponents of the measure warn that doing so will lead to an increase in violent crime. San Francisco State University film students Owen Wesson, Aaron Firestone, Marine Gautier, and Daniel Casillas took to the road this fall to collect a range of perspectives on a thorny, emotionally-charged issue that questions how best to handle crime prevention and fairly administer justice in California.

Continue reading