Monday, November 28, 2011

What Did that Turkey Do to Need a Pardon, Anyway?

Last week, on November 23rd, President Obama participated in the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation, a traditional White House event dating back to at least 1873 with President Ulysses S. Grant, wherein the Commander-In-Chief is presented with a bird for the White House Thanksgiving Dinner.  A newer tradition -- and seemingly now an annual event -- is the Annual Pardoning of the Thanksgiving Turkey, in which the gifted turkeys are released by the President to live the remainder of theirs lives free from the threat of being eaten by the leader of the free world.

President Gerald Ford, in 1975, pardons another turkey.
The affair is light-hearted (and gravy-free), and often provides the President an opportunity to get in a few digs at the media, as President Obama did in his presentation last week.  A video of the 2011 Pardoning is embedded below.

This year the White House Blog also provided its own brief on the history of Presidential Turkey Pardons.

But crafty readers may wonder what these innocent-looking turkeys may have done to need a pardon in the first place.  For the answer to this question, they may wish to turn to Crime in the United States, an annual publication from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program that organizes crime statistics into several (un)appetizing categories such as Property Crimes, Homicides, and even by number of persons arrested.  There is sadly no compilation of statistics specifically for crimes committed during a Walmart Black Friday sale. But perhaps soon.
More hard-hitting statistics are available through the Department of Agriculture, such as this year 2000 report, ominously titled "Structural Change in U.S. Chicken and Turkey Slaughter," in which we learn of America's insatiable appetite for bird meat.

Chilling.  Like unheated cranberry-sauce chilling.  But still no definitive numbers exist for crimes committed by turkeys, or how the crimes of pardoned turkeys might break down by category.  Nevertheless, the archives of the Annual Pardoning ceremonies and the FBI's Crime in the United States publication are just two of the many kinds of Government Documents available on the issues that matter to YOU

Also, the government prints cookbooks.  An anti-bird conspiracy if there ever was one.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Appeals Court Upholds Roadless Areas

On October 21 a federal appeals court upheld a rule barring construction of roads in designated areas in national forests and grasslands managed by the U.S. Forest Service.   The rule, which was enacted near the end of Clinton's presidency, has been tied up in the courts ever since.  Environmentalists are elated.  The mining industry is not.  To qualify as roadless areas, the lands should have: high quality or undisturbed soil, water, or air; sources of public drinking water; diversity of plant and animal communities; habitat for threatened, endangered, proposed, candidate, and sensitive species, and for those species dependent on large, undisturbed areas of land; primitive, semi-primitive motorized, and semi-primitive non-motorized classes of dispersed recreation; reference landscapes; natural-appearing landscapes with high scenic quality; traditional cultural properties and sacred sites; and, other locally identified unique characteristics.

Pole Creek near the headwaters of the Rio Grande River in Rio Grande National Forest
Because of concerns expressed by the mining, timber, and ski industries, the State of Colorado would like to have a specific rule that applies to Colorado only.  To learn more about the proposed Colorado Roadless Areas (CRAs) visit the Colorado Rule area of the Roadless Area Conservation website hosted by the Forest Service. 

The Government Information website also has pages on Parks, Forests, Grasslands, Wildlife Refuges, and Historic Places

Monday, November 14, 2011

U.S. Supreme Court to Review Legality of Obama Heath Care Overhaul

As is being reported widely across news services today, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments regarding the constiutionality of provisions in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PDF), the 2010 overhaul of U.S. health insurance and one of the major accomplishments of Barack Obama's presidential administration.

A White House photo from 2009, as then President-elect Obama visits with members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Predonimantly at question is the Act's provision requiring that citizens of the country purchase some form of health care or be penalized with a fee.  Interestingly, the Supreme Court has agreed to hear five-and-one-half hours of arguments for and against the Act -- a length of time not devoted to a case before SCOTUS since 2003's arguments on the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act in the case of McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (Click here for transcripts of that case's Arguments and the Court's Decsion).

Online at the Supreme Court's Web site now are several publications from the case docket, or the materials filed with the court, including several "Petitions for Writ of Certiorari" -- which are petitions for the Supreme Court to evaulate the ruling of a lower court in cases "of such imperative public importance as to justify deviation from normal appellate practice and to require immediate determination" -- and "Briefs in Opposition," which point out "any perceived misstatement of fact or law in the petition" that bears on the issues before the Court, should the certiorari be granted. (See The Rules of the Supreme Court for more details on these terms.)

Embedded above are President Obama's remarks as he signs the Affordable Care Act into 
law (Transcript).  The moment was also notable for Vice President's on-mic comments that
occur about 7:15 into the video.

Whether related to the Court's announcement, or part of an ongoing push by the White House to remove congressional barriers from the passage of additional economic stimuli, a new program was announced today by the adminsitration and the Department of Health and Human Services that ties funding from Affordable Care Act to a "Health Care Innovation Challenge," which grants at least one million dollars to programs designed to "deliver better health, improved care and lower costs to people enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program." 

At the very least, the inititive ties to existing efforts by the Obama administration to better publicize the Affordable Care Act, including the White House's own Web site on the issue and the HHS' Web site.  The Obama White House has always been savvy with its ability to use technology to promote its agenda, such as in this video pointing out heath care statistics just before the Act's passage.

With a Supreme Court ruling likely appearing in June of 2012, its decision and the results of the White House's efforts in promoting the Act could have a major impact on the court of public opinion going in to the 2012 Presidential election.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Nixon Grand Jury Records

The image (all images are from the Nixon Presidential Photo Gallery) below is just one of the steps in the Watergate crisis that ultimately ended in the resignation of President Richard Nixon on August 9th 1974. The resignation was not the end of the story, today at noon the National Archives released the grand jury testimony taken in 1975 after the resignation. 
President Nixon delivers an Address to the Nation from the Oval Office responding to subpoenas for the White House Tapes with edited transcripts.
Date:   April 29, 1974
Roll-Frame number:   WHPO E2679c-09A
In May 1975, the Watergate Special Prosecution Force (WSPF) decided that it was necessary to question former President Richard M. Nixon in connection with various investigations being conducted by the WSPF. Mr. Nixon was questioned over the period of two days, June 23 and June 24, 1975, and the testimony was taken as part of various investigations being conducted by the January 7, 1974, Grand Jury for the District of Columbia (the third Watergate Grand Jury). Chief Judge George Hart signed an order authorizing that the sworn deposition of Mr. Nixon be taken at the Coast Guard Station in San Mateo, California with two members of the grand jury present. For more details on what was released check out the press release.

These records are available from three sources:
In addition the Nixon Presidential Library is releasing:
These documents supplement the documents already available from the Nixon library, many digitally, and provide illumination on a previously sealed portion of the history of this scandal.

President Nixon leaving the White House
Date:   August 9, 1974
Roll-Frame number:   WHPO E3386c-35
Still want more? Why not get find some more presidential documents using the library's Presidents guide.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Mining the Mountain of Presidential Elections Publications

With television and online news coverage of the 2012 Election only increasing as next year's election day draws near -- but hopefully before Americans become oversaturated with election events -- now seems an opportune time to (re)introduce users to sources and publications about American Presidental Elections.

Clinton and Obama during the 2008 debates.  From AP Iamges.
Our patrons may already be aware that the Government Information Library offers a general guide to resources and useful government links on the issues of Elections and Voting, and they may even know that the GIL has presented pages in the past regarding specific election years, such as 2004 and 2006

At the same time, standard "go-to" government web sites like the Federal Election Commission help to illuminate the process of campaign financing, providing useful historical data, as well as information on donations put toward yet-to-be-decided events like the Presidential Elections of 2012The Stasitical Abstract of the United States (a publication some may remember is operating under the threat of extinction) offers data on campaign financing, too, but additionally provides overviews of voter participation, the apportionment of membership to the House of Representatives, and demographic characteristics of office holders in its section on Elections
The Presidents Bush (43rd and 41st) in 2008.  From AP Images.

From elesewhere around the Web, the University of California Santa barbara's American Presidency Project presents election data more visually at its Elections site, which extends as far back as the first election of a president in 1789 (one of only two U.S. presdiential elections decided by unanimous electoral vote -- though Thomas Jefferson's election to the office in 1804 came awfully close).  They also have a section on 2000's contested election to the office, with transcripts of key events and newscasts featuring both parties.

C-SPAN's Video Library site features over 18,000 programs in the Campaignan & Elections portion of its cataloge, including the now infamous concession of the 200 election by Vice President Al Gore to President-elect, George H. W. Bush.

With all this raw data available, some may surmise that there is no election in the world as well scrutinized as those deciding the President of the Unites States.  And that assumption would have to include more narrative contributions from media journalists over the years, many of whom offer well researched and well documented accounts of the behind-the-scenes events that often decide the canidates Americans are later asked to choose between.  Below are just a few of the literally hundreds of titles offered in the CU Boulder system on some of our country's more recent presidential elections.  Check them out! And for more data or publications about a particular election, stop in to the Government Information Library or the Norlin Library Rsearch Desk.

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the race of a lifetime by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin (Click here for more titles on the 2008 Election).

Bush versus Kerry : a functional analysis of campaign 2004 by William L. Benoit (More about the 2004 Election).

The Race to 270 : the Electoral College and the campaign strategies of 2000 and 2004 by Daron R. Shaw (and more on the 2000 Election).

What it Takes: the way to the White House by Richard Ben Cramer (More on the 1988 election).

Reagan's victory : the presidential election of 1980 and the rise of the right by Andrew E. Busch (More on the 1980 election).

Finally, Theodore H. White wrote the series "The Making of the President" for elections in the years 1960, 1964, 1968, and 1972

Thursday, November 03, 2011

GAO Reports and Releases

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) which is often called the investigative arm of Congress. This set of publications from GAO investigates the post office, agriculture, banking, and many other issues. If you would like to know more about GAO, check out the library's guide.


Comptroller General Presentation
  • Meeting Accountability Challenges in a Dynamic Environment, by Gene L. Dodaro, comptroller general of the United States, before the annual meeting of the Alabama Examiners of Public Accounts, in Montgomery, Alabama. GAO-12-167CG, October 17, 2011

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

New Federal Sentencing Guidelines Take Effect November 1

Today, November 1, the new federal sentencing guidelines take effect.  One of the most significant changes involves bringing the penalty for possession of crack cocaine in line with the penalties for possession of cocaine in other forms.   In general terms this means lowering the mandatory sentence for possession of crack cocaine.   Although this portion of the new guidelines will take effect retroactively it is not an automatic "get out of jail" card.   Each case must be considered individually by a federal court.  National Public Radio did an interesting story on the changes to crack sentencing that could lead to early releases.  The story notes that the "disparity in sentences for crack versus powder had long been criticized as racially discriminatory because it disproportionately affected black defendants. The Fair Sentencing Act passed by Congress in 2010 and signed by President Barack Obama reduced the disparity for future cases."

For official information, go to the United States Sentencing Commission's website which has an  FAQ with information about the changes for crack cocaine. For more indepth information, consult the commission's report to Congress about the effects of mandatory sentences on the federal prison system.   The commission is charged with making "recommendations to Congress concerning modification or enactment of statutes relating to sentencing, penal, and correctional matters that the Commission finds to be necessary and advisable to carry out an effective, humane, and rational sentencing policy."  Aligning the sentences for crack cocaine with those for other forms of cocaine seems like a good step towards a more rational sentencing policy. 

For additional information on federal drug policy, the The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) website is a good place to start.  In addition to information about drug enforcement, the site includes pictures of drugs, fact sheets on legal and illegal drugs, and other useful information.

Pictures of cocaine from the DEA website.

You can also find more information about drugs and crime using the links on the Government Information's Alcohol, Tobacco, and Drug Use page and on the Crime and Justice page.