RECENT POSTS

From FDR to Obama, 70 Years of Presidents Waging Battle

Includes videos

President Obama’s address on Wednesday authorizing U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIL or ISIS), was a sobering reminder of the immense power bestowed on the Commander in Chief to single-handedly order military action.

Like his address last September threatening the use of military force against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (a threat that never materialized),  Obama’s most recent speech was the latest in a long history of solemn presidential declarations of war and authorizations of lesser military action.

Since World War II, the United States’ increasingly large and powerful military has been quite busy, to say the least, consistently involved in conflicts around the world. In little over half a century, American forces have fought in five all-out wars (Korea, Vietnam, the first war in Iraq, Afghanistan and the second war in Iraq) and been involved in many additional smaller military invasions.

Continue reading

How 9/11 Changed America: Four Major Lasting Impacts

Includes videos
Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Thirteen years ago the United States wasn’t officially engaged in any foreign wars. We deported half the number of people we do today. Our surveillance state was a mere fraction of its current size. And — hard as it might be to believe — getting through airport security didn’t involve removing your shoes.

America’s involvement in the War on Terror — spurred by the 9/11 terrorist attacks — resulted in changing attitudes and concerns about safety and vigilance, ushering in a new generation of policies like the USA Patriot Act that prioritized national security and defense, often at the expense of civil liberties. The changes have had ripple effects across the globe, particularly in the Middle East, where American military operations have influenced rebellions and unrest throughout the region.

Four of the most dramatic domestic transformations brought on by the events of 9/11 are detailed below.

Continue reading

Burned Out: Why Western Wildfires Have Gotten Bigger, Hotter and More Out of Control [Comic]

The 2014 fire season was predicted to be a doozy, and so far it hasn’t failed to disappoint. Prolonged drought conditions throughout the West, felt particularly hard across the Golden State, have resulted in a string of large, destructive and extremely costly blazes, charring huge swaths of forest in Northern California and the the Northwest and leaving local and federal fire prevention agencies dangerously strapped for funding and resources. As of September 4, over 38,000 fires had been reported since the beginning of 2014, burning more than 2.7 million acres, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Why has fire season gotten so much longer, more dangerous and increasingly expensive? Comic journalist Andy Warner explains the heated history. Continue reading

Four Factors Fueling the Rage in Ferguson

Includes interactive charts
Day six of protests in Ferguson (Loavesofbread/Wikimedia)

Day six of protests in Ferguson (Loavesofbread/Wikimedia)

Relative calm seems to have been restored in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo, where the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black male shot by a white police officer, sparked nearly two weeks of fierce protest and rioting. But the underlying racial and economic tensions in the community that helped create such a powder keg have not gone away. And with increasing poverty in a growing number of suburban communities across the country — including several in the Bay Area — Ferguson’s issues certainly aren’t unique.

Continue reading

Haunted by History: Why Peace in Iraq Is So Hard to Find [An Illustrated Explainer]

Includes cartoon infographic

UPDATE: Since we first published this piece two weeks ago, embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki agreed (on August 15) — after days of tense standoff that brought the possibility of a military coup — to relinquish power and accept the nomination of Haider al-Abadi as the country’s new leader. Abadi, also a Shiite, belongs to the same party as his predecessor. Additionally, on August 18, President Obama announced that Iraqi special forces and Kurdish fighters, backed by American war planes, had retaken a strategic dam near the northern city of Mosul, which had previously been captured by Islamic extremists. Continue reading

College Is Expensive! But Is It Worth It?

Includes comic infographic
CostOfCollege_slice13 NOTE: This was originally published on Jan. 15, 2014

More Americans are attending college today than ever before. And that’s generally considered a good thing. But college tuition at both public and private universities has skyrocketed, leaving a growing number of graduates mired in debt and struggling to find decent employment in a sluggish economy. All of which begs the question: is the studying and sacrifice really worth it? With pencil in hand, comic journalist Andy Warner explores the issue. Continue reading

The Chilling Effect: Why San Francisco Gets So Foggy in the Summer

Includes video and interactives

Note: This post was originally published on May 20, 2014

“The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”

Mark Twain may never have actually said it himself, but that doesn’t make the statement any less true.  Continue reading

What You Need to Know about Immigration Reform [An Animated Explainer]

Remember when U.S. immigration reform seemed like it was finally in the cards?

That was so 2013.

The brief burst of fanfare following passage of the Senate’s comprehensive bill last year faded quickly when the debate hit the bitterly divided House, where prospects for getting anything done have now been all but extinguished. Continue reading