Archive for the ‘history’ Category

CRS — Congress’s Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Congress’s Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: Law, History, Practice, and Procedure (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Congress’s contempt power is the means by which Congress responds to certain acts that in its view obstruct the legislative process. Contempt may be used either to coerce compliance, to punish the contemnor, and/or to remove the obstruction. Although arguably any action that directly obstructs the effort of Congress to exercise its constitutional powers may constitute a contempt, in recent times the contempt power has most often been employed in response to noncompliance with a duly issued congressional subpoena—whether in the form of a refusal to appear before a committee for purposes of providing testimony, or a refusal to produce requested documents.

See also: Congress’s Contempt Power and the Enforcement of Congressional Subpoenas: A Sketch (PDF)

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USPS OIG — Preservation and Disposal of Historic Properties

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Preservation and Disposal of Historic Properties (PDF)
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

The Postal Service did not know how many historic properties it owned or what it cost to preserve them, as required by the National Historic Preservation Act. It did not report the status of historic artwork to the National Museum of American Art, as required by Postal Service Handbook RE-6, Facilities and Environmental Guide, when it sold 10 historic post offices.

The Postal Service did not collaborate with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to improve its compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act and did not submit its 2011 status report to the council. The council could help the Postal Service establish covenants to protect historic features and help secure covenant holders to monitor compliance with those covenants. Also, the council could help review public requests to participate in the preservation process. The Postal Service could also use the U.S. General Services Administration — which employs experienced real estate and historical preservation professionals — to assist in the preservation process.

Taxes and Inequality

March 24, 2014 Comments off

Taxes and Inequality
Source: Urban Institute

This paper reviews historical trends in economic inequality and tax policy’s role in reducing it. It documents the various reasons why income inequality continues to rise, paying particular attention to the interplay between regressive and progressive federal and state taxes. The report also considers the trade-off between the social welfare gains that a more equal distribution of incomes would provide, and the economic costs of using the tax system to reduce inequality, highlighting the fact that income inequality reflects an amalgam of factors. The optimal policy response reflects that complexity.

AU — ‘That’s it, you’re out’: disorderly conduct in the House of Representatives from 1901 to 2013

March 24, 2014 Comments off

‘That’s it, you’re out’: disorderly conduct in the House of Representatives from 1901 to 2013
Source: Parliamentary Library of Australia

Executive summary

  • Of the 1,093 members who have served in the House of Representatives from 1901 to the end of the 43rd Parliament in August 2013, 300 (27.4%) have been named and/or suspended or ‘sin binned’ for disorderly behaviour in the Chamber. This study outlines the bases of the House’s authority to deal with disorderly behaviour, and the procedures available to the Speaker to act on such behaviour. It then analyses the 1,352 instances of disorderly behaviour identified in the official Hansard record with a view to identifying patterns over time, and the extent and degree of such behaviour. It does not attempt to identify the reasons why disorderly behaviour occurs as they are quite complex and beyond the scope of this paper.
  • The authority for the rules of conduct in the House of Representatives is derived from the Australian Constitution. The members themselves have broad responsibility for their behaviour in the House. However, it is the role of the Speaker or the occupier of the Chair to ensure that order is maintained during parliamentary proceedings. This responsibility is derived from the standing orders. Since its introduction in 1994, the ‘sin bin’ has become the disciplinary action of choice for Speakers.
  • With the number of namings and suspensions decreasing in recent years, the ‘sin bin’ (being ordered from the chamber for one hour) appears to have been successful in avoiding the disruption caused by the naming and suspension procedure. However, as the number of ‘sin bin’ sanctions has increased, it may be that this penalty has contributed to greater disorder because members may view it as little more than a slap on the wrist and of little deterrent value.
  • Most disorderly behavior (90%) occurs during Question Time and in the parliamentary proceedings which often take place during or just after it. Such behaviour also tends to increase daily as the sitting week progresses.
  • Front benchers and parliamentary office holders account for about 57% of instances of disorderly behaviour. Opposition members are sanctioned 90% of the time no matter which party occupies that role. No prime minister has been sanctioned for disorderly behaviour but two deputy prime ministers and seven opposition leaders have, although not all have been ordered from the House. Christopher Pyne leads the list of members most disciplined on 45 followed by Anthony Albanese on 34. Women members have accounted for 15% of disciplinary actions since they first entered Parliament in 1943.
  • Members were disciplined most frequently under the Speakership of Peter Slipper followed by Anna Burke, David Hawker and Harry Jenkins.
  • On four measures of disorderly behaviour (number of disciplinary actions, number of sitting weeks in which a member was disciplined, number of days when four or more members were disciplined, number of different members disciplined), the Rudd/Gillard Parliaments (42nd and 43rd, 2008–2013) were more disorderly than the Howard Parliaments (38th to 41st, 1996–2007). The most disorderly Parliament was the 43rd.

Lessons for a Negotiated Settlement in Afghanistan — If History Serves as a Guide

March 21, 2014 Comments off

Lessons for a Negotiated Settlement in Afghanistan — If History Serves as a Guide
Source: RAND Corporation

Historical insurgencies that ended in settlement after a stalemate have generally followed a seven-step path. A “master narrative” distilled from these cases could help guide and assess the progress toward a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan.

Canadian Heritage Designations

February 21, 2014 Comments off

Canadian Heritage Designations
Source: Library of Parliament

Over the years, the federal government has granted 3,500 heritage designations to places, buildings, events and people of historical significance. These designations, which showcase the creativity and cultural traditions of Canadians, commemorate significant events in Canada’s history and foster understanding about how the country was built.

Citigroup: A Case Study in Managerial and Regulatory Failures

February 20, 2014 Comments off

Citigroup: A Case Study in Managerial and Regulatory Failures
Source: Indiana Law Review (forthcoming); GWU Legal Studies Research Paper; GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper

Citigroup has served as the poster child for the elusive promises and manifold pitfalls of universal banking. When Citicorp merged with Travelers to form Citigroup in 1998, Citigroup’s leaders and supporters asserted that the new financial conglomerate would offer unparalleled convenience to its customers through “one-stop shopping” for banking, securities and insurance services. They also claimed that Citigroup would have a superior ability to withstand financial shocks due to its broadly diversified activities.

By 2009, those bold predictions of Citigroup’s success had turned to ashes. Citigroup pursued a high-risk, high-growth strategy during the 2000s that proved to be disastrous. As a result, the bank recorded more than $130 billion of losses on its loans and investments from 2007 to 2009. To prevent Citigroup’s failure, the federal government provided $45 billion of new capital to the bank and gave the bank $500 billion of additional help in the form of asset guarantees, debt guarantees and emergency loans. The federal government provided more financial assistance to Citigroup than to any other bank during the financial crisis.

During its early years, Citigroup was embroiled in a series of high-profile scandals, including tainted transactions with Enron and WorldCom, biased research advice, corrupt allocations of shares in initial public offerings, predatory subprime lending, and market manipulation in foreign bond markets. Notwithstanding a widely-publicized plan to improve corporate risk controls in 2005, Citigroup continued to pursue higher profits through a wide range of speculative activities, including leveraged corporate lending, packaging toxic subprime loans into mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations, and dumping risky assets into off- balance-sheet conduits for which Citigroup had contractual and reputational exposures.

Post-mortem evaluations of Citigroup’s near-collapse revealed that neither Citigroup’s managers nor its regulators recognized the systemic risks embedded in the bank’s far-flung operations. Thus, Citigroup was not only too big to fail but also too large and too complex to manage or regulate effectively. Citigroup’s history raises deeply troubling questions about the ability of bank executives and regulators to supervise and control today’s megabanks.

Citigroup’s original creators – John Reed of Citicorp and Sandy Weill of Travelers – admitted in recent years that Citigroup’s universal banking model failed, and they called on Congress to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act’s separation between commercial and investment banks. As Reed and Weill acknowledged, the universal banking model is deeply flawed by its excessive organizational complexity, its vulnerability to culture clashes and conflicts of interest, and its tendency to permit excessive risk-taking within far-flung, semi-autonomous units that lack adequate oversight from either senior managers or regulators.

CRS — The President’s State of the Union Address: Tradition, Function, and Policy Implications

February 19, 2014 Comments off

The President’s State of the Union Address: Tradition, Function, and Policy Implications (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Senate)

The State of the Union address is a communication between the President and Congress in which the chief executive reports on the current conditions of the United States and provides policy proposals for the upcoming legislative year. Formerly known as the “Annual Message,” the State of the Union address originates in the Constitution. As part of the system of checks and balances, Article II, Section 3, clause 1 mandates that the President “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” In recent decades, the President has expanded his State of the Union audience, addressing the speech to both the nation and Members of Congress.

Throwback — Report of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (1963)

February 12, 2014 Comments off

Report of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (1963) (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Women

In presenting to you the report of your Commission on the Status of women, we are mindful first of all that we transmit it bereft of our Chairman. Today is Eleanor Roosevelt’s birthday. In handing you the results of the work started with her active participation, we wish once again to pay tribute to a great woman. Her devotion to fuller realization of the abilities of women in all walks of life and in all countries raised the status of women everywhere in the world.

Accepting your invitation to do so, we have assessed the position of women and the functions they perform in the home, in the economy, in the society. In so vast a field, selection of points of concentration was unavoidable. In any case, certain priorities were estalbished for us by your Executive order that brought the commission into being.

CRS — Child Labor in America: History, Policy, and Legislative Issues

December 17, 2013 Comments off

Child Labor in America: History, Policy, and Legislative Issues (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The history of child labor in America is long and, in some cases, unsavory. It dates back to the founding of the United States. Historically, except for the privileged few, most children worked— either for their parents or for an outside employer. Through the years, however, child labor practices have changed. So have the benefits and risks associated with employment of children. In some respects, altered workplace technology has served to make work easier and less hazardous. At the same time, some processes and equipment have rendered the workplace more advanced and dangerous, especially for children and youth.

Child labor first became a federal legislative issue at least as far back as 1906 with the introduction of the Beveridge proposal for regulation of the types of work in which children might be engaged. Although the 1906 legislation was not adopted, it led to extended study of the conditions under which children were employed or allowed to work and to a series of legislative proposals—some approved, others defeated or overturned by the courts—culminating in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. The latter statute, amended periodically, remains the primary federal law dealing with the employment of children

Generally speaking, work by young persons (under 18 years of age) in mines and factories is not allowed. The types of nonfarm work that may be suitable (or especially hazardous) for persons under 18 years of age has been left mainly to the discretion of the Secretary of Labor. Some types of work—for example, some newspaper sales and delivery, theatrical (and related) employment— are exempt from the FLSA child labor requirements. Finally, a distinction has been made between employment in nonagricultural occupations and in agricultural occupations and, in the latter case, between work for a parent and commercial employment.

This report examines the historical issue of child labor in America and summarizes legislation that has been introduced from the 108th Congress to the 113th Congress.

The Urbanization of the Eastern Gray Squirrel in the United States

December 9, 2013 Comments off

The Urbanization of the Eastern Gray Squirrel in the United States
Source: Journal of American History

The urbanization of the gray squirrel in the United States between the mid-nineteenth century and the early twentieth century was an ecological and cultural process that changed the squirrels’ ways of life, altered the urban landscape, and adjusted human understandings of nature, the city, and the boundaries of community. Squirrels were part of the new complex of human-animal relationships that emerged in the American city at the turn of the twentieth century as laboring animals were replaced by machines, and as dairy, meat, and egg production and processing were shifted to the urban margins. Accounts of urban squirrels in newspapers, magazines, scientific journals, diaries, and other sources provide evidence of these changes and of the development of a new understanding of community that crossed species borders to include some types of animals and exclude some types of humans. These sources help explain why Bailey and many others saw the eastern gray squirrel not merely as an interesting object of nature study but also as a morally significant member of the urban community

Net Effects: The Past, Present & Future Impact of Our Networks – History, Challenges and Opportunities

December 3, 2013 Comments off

Net Effects: The Past, Present & Future Impact of Our Networks – History, Challenges and Opportunities
Source: Federal Communications Commission

Almost a month into my new job, the fact that I’ve always been a “network guy” and an intrepid history buff should come as no surprise. Reading history has reinforced the central importance networks play and revealed the common themes in successive periods of network-driven change. Now, at the FCC, I find myself joining my colleagues in a position of both responsibility and authority over how the public is affected by and interfaces with the networks that connect us.

Prior to my appointment by President Obama, I was doing research for a book about the history of networks. The new job stopped that project. However, I believe strongly that our future is informed by our past. While awaiting Senate confirmation, I tried to distill the project on which I had been working to connect what I had learned in my research to the challenges in my new job.

The result is a short, free eBook, “Net Effects: The Past, Present & Future Impact of Our Networks – History, Challenges and Opportunities”. It’s a look at the history of three network revolutions – the printing press, the railroad, and the telegraph and telephony – and how the fourth network revolution – digital communications – will be informed by those experiences.

CRS — Women in the United States Congress, 1917-2013: Biographical and Committee Assignment Information, and Listings by State and Congress

November 15, 2013 Comments off

Women in the United States Congress, 1917-2013: Biographical and Committee Assignment Information, and Listings by State and Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

A total of 297 women have served in Congress, 193 Democrats and 104 Republicans. Of these women, 253 (163 Democrats, 90 Republicans) have served only in the House of Representatives; 34 (21 Democrats, 13 Republicans) have served only in the Senate; and 10 (8 Democrats, 2 Republicans) have served in both houses. These figures include four non-voting Delegates, one each from Guam, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of the 44 women who have served in the Senate, 14 were first appointed and 5 were first elected to fill unexpired terms.

CRS — Salaries of Members of Congress: Recent Actions and Historical Tables

November 14, 2013 Comments off

Salaries of Members of Congress: Recent Actions and Historical Tables (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report contains information on the pay procedure and recent adjustments. It also contains historical information on the rate of pay for Members of Congress since 1789; the adjustments projected by the Ethics Reform Act as compared to actual adjustments in Member pay; details on past legislation enacted with language prohibiting the annual pay adjustment; and Member pay in constant and current dollars since 1992. For information on actions taken each year since the establishment of the Ethics Reform Act adjustment procedure, see CRS Report 97-615, Salaries of Members of Congress: Congressional Votes, 1990-2013, by Ida A. Brudnick.

The Economic Performance Index (EPI): an Intuitive Indicator for Assessing a Country’s Economic Performance Dynamics in an Historical Perspective

October 25, 2013 Comments off

The Economic Performance Index (EPI): an Intuitive Indicator for Assessing a Country’s Economic Performance Dynamics in an Historical Perspective
Source: International Monetary Fund

Existing economic indicators and indexes assess economic activity but no single indicator measures the general macro-economic performance of a nation, state, or region in a methodologically simple and intuitive way. This paper proposes a simple, yet informative metric called the Economic Performance Index (EPI). The EPI represents a step toward clarity, by combining data on inflation, unemployment, government deficit, and GDP growth into a single indicator. In contrast to other indexes, the EPI does not use complicated mathematical procedures but was designed for simplicity, making it easier for professionals and laypeople alike to understand and apply to the economy. To maximize ease of understanding, we adopt a descriptive grading system. In addition to a Raw EPI that gives equal weights to its components, we construct a Weighted EPI and show that both indexes perform similarly for U.S. data. To demonstrate the validity of the EPI, we conduct a review of U.S. history from 1790 to 2012. We show that the EPI reflects the major events in U.S. history, including wars, periods of economic prosperity and booms, along with economic depressions, recessions, and even panics. Furthermore, the EPI not only captures official recessions over the past century but also allows for measuring and comparing their relative severity. Even though the EPI is simple by its construction, we show that its dynamics are similar to those of the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) and The Conference Board Coincident Economic Index® (CEI).

The British Royal Family’s Circumcision Tradition: Genesis and Evolution of a Contemporary Legend

October 21, 2013 Comments off

The British Royal Family’s Circumcision Tradition: Genesis and Evolution of a Contemporary Legend
Source: Sage Open

The birth of Prince William’s son in July 2013 was the occasion for an outpouring of media speculation about the fate of the royal baby’s foreskin. The possibility that he might be circumcised was connected to a purported tradition of circumcision within the British royal family, said to be have been initiated either by Queen Victoria or by George I. In this article, we trace the origins and evolution of these stories and assess their validity. Our conclusion is that belief in a royal circumcision tradition derives from the reported circumcision of Prince Charles by the mohel Jacob Snowman in 1948, and the efforts of the British Israelite movement to concoct a “lost tribes of Israel” origin for the British race. These elements merged into a fully developed narrative that was widely disseminated from the late 1990s. The initially separate claim that the tradition was imported from Hanover by George I can be sourced precisely to 2012. We further show that these stories are inventions, and that the royal family circumcision tradition should be regarded as a classic instance of a contemporary legend or urban myth.

History of the IMF – A Digital Collection

October 8, 2013 Comments off

History of the IMF – A Digital Collection
Source: International Monetary Fund

This collection of publications and documents from the International Monetary Fund provides insight into its history. The links include the full collection of the IMF’s official histories, which were each authored and curated by the IMF’s Historian at the time—J. Keith Horsefield (1963-67), Margaret de Vries (1973-87), and James Boughton (1992-2000; 2004-12)—as well as other works that have recorded the IMF’s history for 70 years.

CRS — Monuments and Memorials in the District of Columbia: Analysis and Options for Proposed Exemptions to the Commemorative Works Act

October 1, 2013 Comments off

Monuments and Memorials in the District of Columbia: Analysis and Options for Proposed Exemptions to the Commemorative Works Act (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Each Congress, numerous proposals to create new commemorative works (i.e., monuments and memorials) in the District of Columbia are introduced. In evaluating each proposal, Congress considers the subject of the proposed work; whether existing monuments and memorials commemorate similar subjects; and whether the sponsor group has requested an exemption from existing laws that might limit monument and memorial subjects and location within the District of Columbia. This report focuses on options for Congress for three types of exemptions to the Commemorative Works Act (CWA, 40 U.S.C. §§8901-8909): siting works, donor recognition, and the placement and status of museums, which are generally not considered commemorative works.

The CWA was enacted in 1986 to govern all monuments and memorials to be located on federal land in the District of Columbia under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service (NPS) or the General Services Administration (GSA). Further, the CWA sought to preserve the L’Enfant and McMillian plans for the Capital; ensure continued public use and enjoyment of open spaces; and preserve, protect, and maintain the open space. Pursuant to the CWA, Congress statutorily authorizes a sponsor group to design and build a monument or memorial with the approval of regulatory bodies: the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts (CFA). Additionally, the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission (NCMAC) was created to advise Congress, the Secretary of the Interior, and the Administrator of General Services on the commemorative works process. Unless otherwise stated in law, the sponsor group is responsible for funding the memorial without the use of federal funds.

Since CWA’s enactment, 28 commemorative works have been authorized, and numerous others have been proposed. Among the authorized and proposed works, several sponsor groups have sought—and some have received—exemptions from certain CWA provisions.

The CWA divides the District of Columbia into three areas for the siting of monuments and memorials: an area where new commemorative works are prohibited (the Reserve), an area that requires congressional authorization (Area I), and all other NPS or GSA land (Area II). Some sponsor groups have been granted exemptions for siting monuments and memorials, and others have been approved to add new elements to existing commemorative works.

With limited exceptions, legislation authorizing new monuments and memorials prohibits the use of federal funds to design and build them. Therefore, sponsor groups must raise the necessary funds from donors. Sponsor groups, however, are also statutorily prohibited from recognizing their donors at the commemorative works’ sites. Sponsor groups have sought individual exemptions from these provisions (P.L. 113-21 granted an exemption for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitor Center) and have proposed to amend the CWA to allow recognition at all memorials (see H.R. 2395, 113th Congress).

The CWA also prohibits the siting of museums on NPS- or GSA-administered land in the District of Columbia. In 2003, however, Congress provided an exemption to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The granting of this exemption arguably suggests that Congress believes the CWA applies to museums at any District location, if they are located on NPS- or GSA-administered land. This application of the CWA to a museum would be in contrast to the specific CWA prohibition against the placement of a museum in Area I or East Potomac Park.

The Children’s Bureau Legacy: Ensuring the Right to Childhood

September 30, 2013 Comments off

The Children’s Bureau Legacy: Ensuring the Right to Childhood
Source: U.S. Department of Human Services, Administration for Children and Families

As part of its centennial celebration, the Children’s Bureau researched and produced a history of its first 100 years. The resulting e-book combines compelling text with striking historical images to tell the story of a small Federal agency that took on some of the most devastating social problems of the time, including high infant mortality, child labor, and child abuse and neglect. The e-book puts this history in the context of changing world events and social movements. It also offers a look at some of the determined leaders who helped shape the Bureau to be what it is today—a strong advocate for America’s children and families.

Karen Clark & Company Report Examines Present Day Impact of 1938 Hurricane

September 19, 2013 Comments off

Karen Clark & Company Report Examines Present Day Impact of 1938 Hurricane
Source: Karen Clark & Company

Karen Clark & Company (KCC), independent experts in catastrophe risk, catastrophe models and catastrophe risk management, today issued a report, in conjunction with the 75th anniversary of the Great New England Hurricane, examining the impact of a comparable storm making landfall today. The report also explores what the industry losses would be from a 100 year Characteristic Event (CE) for the Northeast.

Considered by many to be the greatest single event in the meteorological history of the region, the 1938 hurricane made landfall near Bellport, Long Island on September 21. Believed to be a Category 3 on today’s Saffir-Simpson scale with sustained winds of 120 mph, the storm caused unprecedented destruction. Significant wind damages were experienced throughout the region, and many coastal towns were completely wiped out by storm surge heights exceeding 10 feet in many areas. Because forecasters believed hurricanes never hit the Northeast, no warnings were issued. As a result, nearly 700 people were killed and an equal number injured. In addition, thousands of homes and other buildings were destroyed, with 63,000 left homeless, and 3,000 ships sunk or damaged. The hurricane felled millions of trees, in some locations destroying entire forests, downing power lines and causing outages over most of the region.

The KCC report estimates that were the 1938 storm to occur today insured losses would exceed $35 billion and that a similar storm, but tracking further to the west, would result in insured losses exceeding $100 billion.

Free registration required to access full report.


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