The Constitution Annotated: The Pursuit of App-iness

September 17, 2013

follow-the-founding-fathers-david-bowman_computerIn preparing for this Constitution Day blog post, not only did I retake the civics quiz from last year’s Constitution Day post (see Quiz: Are you smarter than an 8th grade Civics student?), I also scrolled through my tablet last night, reading the Preamble to the Constitution and looking up related quotes. Then it occurred to me: if Founding Father George Washington had been alive today, would he have been a PC or an Apple guy? I’m betting our pragmatic First President would be a PC guy. I’m pretty sure innovator Thomas Jefferson would have been a stylish iPad man, and Benjamin Franklin, inventor of the bifocals, would probably be sporting Google Glasses now and tinkering with them.

Image: Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington. Original Illustration by David Bowman from his book “What Would the Founding Fathers Think?”

constitution-annotated-printWhat is clear is that our Founding Fathers were strategic thinkers who realized that a fully functioning republic needed a clear but flexible code of law that evolved with the Nation. Thus, they wrote the Constitution of the United States, which has stood the test of time with over two centuries of amendments and interpretations by all branches of the U.S. Federal Government.

CONAN for the Librarian (and Lawyers)

Since 1913, the Senate has directed that a publication be issued summarizing the current state of the Constitution to date, with all the amendments and the official interpretations, with the analysis today provided by the Library of Congress’ Congressional Research Service. This publication is called The Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation, popularly known as the Constitution Annotated or “CONAN” among the real insiders.

Constitution-of-the-US-Pocket-GuideIn addition, many Americans, including Members of Congress, buy a pocket print edition of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence to carry around with them at all times. (Click on image to the left.)

Constitution Goes Mobile and Online

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Constitution Annotated publication, and to celebrate it and Constitution Day, the Government Printing Office (GPO) not only issued the Centennial Edition in print, but has also worked with the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the Library of Congress to develop and launch both a new mobile app as well as a web publication that make analysis and interpretation of constitutional case law by Library experts accessible for free to anyone with a computer or mobile device.

The new resources, which include analysis of Supreme Court cases through June 26, 2013, will be updated multiple times each year as new court decisions are issued.  Legal professionals, teachers, students and anyone researching the constitutional implications of a particular topic can easily locate constitutional amendments, federal and state laws that were held unconstitutional, and tables of recent cases with corresponding topics and constitutional implications.

The new app and improved web publication will make the nearly 3,000-page “Constitution Annotated” more accessible to more people and enable updates of new case analysis three or four times each year.

Public Printer Davita Vance-Cooks said,

“Through this collaborative project, the Library of Congress and GPO are providing the public with timely access to an enhanced, authenticated version of the “Constitution Annotated” through GPO’s Federal Digital System. This is another example of how GPO works with Congress, the Library and other agencies to meet the information needs of the American people in the digital age.”

Keeping our “Complex Machinery” in Working Order

On May 19, 1821, years after the Constitution was adopted, John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson that:

“A free government is a complicated piece of machinery, the nice and exact adjustment of whose springs, wheels, and weights, is not yet well comprehended by the artists of the age, and still less by the people.”

Even though our Founding Fathers could not have envisioned a digital future complete with the Internet and smartphones, the framework they put in place has been able to roll with the times. Americans know that our system is indeed a “complicated piece of machinery,” with our laws serving as the user manual, but tools like the Constitution Annotated– in print or now online or on your mobile device– now exist to help keep our machinery of democracy well oiled.

George-Washingtons-Annotated-Copy-of-a-Draft-of-the-U.S.-ConstitutionImage: Even George Washington annotated his copy of the Constitution! (seen left). Source: National Archives

How can I obtain The Constitution Annotated?

1) Buy the Print Edition of The Constitution of the United States of America, Analysis and Interpretation, Centennial Edition

2) Mobile app version of the Constitution Annotated

  • For Apple iOS Devices: Download the new Constitution Annotated app for iOS devices for free from Apple’s iTunes Store or via this direct link: http://beta.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/.
  • ·        For Android Devices: An Android version of this app is under development.

3) Constitution Annotated web publication on FDsys.gov

The Constitution Annotated web publication will be available on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) www.fdsys.gov as a digitally-signed, searchable PDF that includes a linked table of contents, a linked table of cases, a linked index and GPO’s Seal of Authenticity on every page.

The new Constitution Annotated and a suite of constitutional resources can be viewed at http://beta.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/. The page features links to the app stores, an interactive table listing recent cases of high interest, a bibliography of Constitution-related primary documents in American history and tips for searching the Constitution Annotated on GPO’s website at www.gpo.gov/constitutionannotated.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


NASA at 50… Plus 5

August 2, 2013

So many kids growing up in the United States dream of being astronauts, and flying through space. Many adult Americans can remember where they were when the Eagle landed, or when (sadly) the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. You know you’re invested in American culture when you can successfully use the phrase, “Houston, we’ve had a problem” in a social conversation.

HoustonProblemImage: In NASA’s Mission Control in Houston, Texas, in April 1970, there definitely was a problem with the Apollo 13 mission. Here, the Gold Team, directed by Gerald Griffin (seated, back of head to camera), prepares to take over from Black Team (Glynn Lunney, seated, in profile) during a critical period of the Apollo 13 mission to save it– and all the astronauts on board– from disaster. Source: NASA. Read a first-hand account by Apollo 13 Commander, Jim Lovell, of all the “problems.”

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the reason why we have these touchstones in American culture.

NASA at 50: Interviews With NASA's Senior Leadership ISBN: 9780160914478On July 29, NASA celebrated the 55th anniversary of its founding in 1958; the agency has been doing its job passionately for the last fifty-five years.

When NASA hit its fiftieth anniversary, NASA issued commemorative volumes in 2009. NASA at 50: Interviews With NASA’s Senior Leadership takes a look at the new direction senior management wants to guide the agency towards after its first successful half-century.

It really is interesting for readers to look back at NASA’s storied past on this memorable occasion. NASA added to this retrospective  with the companion volume, NASA’s First 50 Years: Historical Perspectives. However, space exploration fans will be eager to learn more about NASA’s future as well as its past, and that’s the purpose of this book.

NASA's First 50 Years: Historical Perspectives; NASA 50 Anniversary Proceedings ISBN: 9780160849657Since NASA’s fiftieth anniversary “found an agency in the midst of deep transition” as Steven Dick, NASA’s chief historian noted, the interviews in NASA at 50: Interviews With NASA’s Senior Leadership review the high points in that transition. Obviously, there’s solid coverage of the end of the Space Shuttle Program, but the text also covers senior management’s thoughts on their work with the new project called Constellation. Constellation includes multiple elements, such as the new launch vehicle Ares I, a human capsule named Orion, and the lunar lander Altair.

The two reporters from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Rebecca Wright and Sandra Johnson, interviewed twenty-four members of senior NASA management to get their perspectives and subject matter expertise on the various program agendas planned for the coming years. The authors included questions directed to the general public more than you might suspect. For example, “Why would you encourage anyone to work for NASA?”, and “Do you find that aeronautics will continue to be a part of NASA in its future?” would appeal to anyone who is interested in working for NASA in years to come; the answers are given in plain, accessible language. Portraits of the interview subjects and an extensive index are included. Policy specialists, aerospace engineers, aerospace engineering and physics students and space exploration fans will all enjoy and take value from NASA at 50: Interviews With NASA’s Senior Leadership.

Coming Home: Reentry and Recovery From Space ISBN: 9780160910647Another book for aeronautics and space exploration fans to explore while celebrating NASA’s fifty-five years is Coming Home: Reentry and Recovery From SpaceIt’s mainly a historical perspective of the technical aspects of shuttlecraft re-entry and recovery after landing. Although the authors used really plan, direct language when writing, the concepts covered are fairly high-level aeronautics for non-professionals to understand. For example:

“Even the CEV, a program that returns to a capsule concept with a blunt-body ablative heat shield and parachutes (or perhaps a Rogallo wing) to return to Earth (or perhaps, the ocean), proved a challenge for engineers” (p. x).

It’s probable that this volume would mainly be of interest to aeronautics and electrical engineers and physicists, or students or policy analysts of those fields, whose area of interest is space exploration. Since the language is so simple, though, I could imagine an ambitious high-school student who is interested in space reading this too, although she or he might need to research some of the tougher concepts (e.g., ablative in any sense other than grammatical cases). Coming home with a safe reentry and recovery was certainly of interest to the Apollo 13 crew!

If you do choose to celebrate NASA’s fifty-fifth anniversary, maybe the best celebratory method (in addition to eating cake) is to read more about NASA. Find out their next steps, and cheer them on in their quest to further science by:

“Explor[ing] the earth, solar system and universe beyond; chart[ing] the best route of discovery; and reap[ing] the benefits of Earth and space exploration for society” (About NASA, Web site).

How can I find these NASA publications?

You can find all the books mentioned here at the GPO Online Bookstore. While you’re at it, you might want to pick up a set of five full-color NASA bookmarks: NASA Space Shuttle Bookmarks: Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia, Discovery, Endeavour to keep your place in these books. Just like party favors, right?

  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy them at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find them in a Library: Search for them in a Library.

Federal Depository Librarians:

About the author(s): Our guest blogger is Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). Editor: Government Book Talk Editor-in-Chief and , GPO Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, Michele Bartram.


Steve Jobs and our Innovation Nation

October 11, 2011

Last week we lost one of America’s great geniuses of innovation, Apple’s founder and CEO, Steve Jobs.

I can remember each time I first used one of Apple’s products. While working for IBM as a systems engineer right out of college and working with both mainframe systems and some not-always-so-friendly early PC operating systems (remember DOS?), I got to use a friend’s Macintosh and was blown away by how easy it was to use. Fast forward through the introduction of the iPod; iTunes online music and apps store; the iPhone—the first touchscreen smartphone; and now the iPad, first touchscreen tablet; and we now have a world that couldn’t conceive of life without Steve Jobs’ innovations.

One of Jobs’ secret to success was treating Apple as an idea and business incubator to continually research and fund what could possibly be the “next great thing” in the future, but was still only a germ of an idea from some engineer or scientist.

The Federal Government as an Incubator of Innovation

Like Apple, one of the key roles of the US Federal Government is to serve as an incubator of innovation.

Here at GPO, for example, we are embracing innovation by producing eBooks, digital downloads, information portals and databases in response to the changing needs of our increasingly digital society, which have been driven in part by Apple inventions introduced by Steve Jobs.

Most of the work products from the Federal Government can be and are used freely by private industry or other areas of Government to spur their own innovations. From statistics to research, processes to products, the Government has provided the seeds to innovation for American industry throughout the years.

Looking through our recent catalog on the US Government Bookstore website, I came across these publications which provide examples of innovation both within the Federal Government and in partnership with the private sector:

 
  • Spinoff Innovative Partnerships Program 2009, provides an in-depth look at how NASA’s initiatives in aeronautics and space exploration have resulted in beneficial commercial technologies in the fields of health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, environmental protection, computer technology and industrial productivity.  Some innovation spinoffs over the years include:
    • lightweight breathing system adapted for firefighters;
    • Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric for astronaut spacesuits is now used as a permanent roofing material for buildings and stadiums;
    • remote-controlled robotic arms are now being used for robotic surgical operations; and
    • artificial heart pump based on the design of NASA’s space shuttle main engine fuel pumps.
    • You can get a print copy of this book now at the US Government Bookstore or find it in a library.
 
 

About the Author:  I am Michele Bartram, Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division.  My duties include marketing for the US Government Online Bookstore (Bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public. Due to the retirement of Jim Cameron, my duties now also include taking the helm as Blogger for Government Book Talk. I have been in the Internet marketing and ecommerce field for over 15 years.

We at GPO wish Jim all the best in his retirement, and will continue to do our best to spotlight the amazing variety of Government publications and their impact on ourselves and our world – and have fun while doing it.

 



%d bloggers like this: