There are Tough Rules – and Really Tough Rules

June 30, 2011

Guest blogger Maureen Whelan reminisces about some REALLY rigorous regulations.

The agencies of the U.S. Government issue nearly 8,000 regulations each year, but whenever I hear people talking about tough Government regulations, I think to myself that they don’t know what “tough” really is. When I was in high school, I attended an all-girls parochial school. We had a list of rules and regulations that every student needed to follow to avoid detention. They ranged from clothing restrictions to discipline, conduct, and behavior matters. There were several degrees of punishment for violators, from the two hours after school type to the dreaded, all-day Saturday detention with the School Sisters of Notre Dame. One of my friends once received a Saturday detention on the weekend prior to graduation for speeding around the school campus during our senior motorcade. Even today, I’m sure that she would rather have violated Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations   (Transportation, Subpart B 365.201 through 365.205, Motor Carriers of Property or Passengers, process on how to Oppose Requests for Authority)  than  oppose the rulings of our Vice Principal!

Seriously, though, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is definitely the most comprehensive official source for all kinds of proposed and final Government regulations. It’s a great research tool, and there are some really good informational tools at the Office of the Federal Register Web site to help you understand how to use it. I think it’s also an unlikely but important symbol of our democracy, because any concerned citizen can access the rule-making process via the CFR, and that’s what open government is about.

You can browse the CFR here or acquire either single volumes or a subscription here. You can also locate the CFR at a Federal depository library. Best of all, none of these sources will give you detention!





The First Collection of President Obama’s Public Papers

April 13, 2011

I think that the Public Papers of the Presidents is one of the Federal Government’s most distinguished series of publications – and not just because my name once appeared in one of its volumes. Each President since Herbert Hoover (except Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose papers were published privately prior to the inauguration of the official series) has had his papers and speeches printed in these imposing and austerely handsome volumes, usually issued twice a year by the National Archives and Records Administration’s Office of the Federal Register.

I bring this up because the first volume of President Barack Obama’s Public Papers has just hit the Government Book Talk main desk (at 1,030 pages, plus an extensive index, it hit with great impact, too.) Every President gets his own binding color, and President Obama’s is a navy blue, with the usual cool gold stamping. In addition to the text, it includes a few color photographs of the President and First Lady – in all, a fine example of GPO’s expertise in traditional printing even as it continues to innovate in the digital arena. (The President gets his own special leather-bound copy personally delivered by the Public Printer of the United States – and as he points out, we don’t do many of those!) To see how GPO does it, click here.

Well, it’s great that these are such beautiful books, but what about the content? It shows that Presidents turn up everywhere, from the Tonight show (page 301) to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (page 759) to a town hall meeting in Green Bay, Wisconsin (page 802). The topics of his speeches, interviews, and news conferences are as diverse as the duties of America’s Chief Executive – health care, foreign relations, economic crises, and even history, as shown by his visit to the Buchenwald concentration camp (page 781). I was particularly touched by his brief statement regarding the victims of a horrendous 2009 Metro subway crash here in DC (page 873) – it happened not long after I rode the same subway line home from work that day.

Perhaps no book better conveys the range of responsibility our Presidents must shoulder every day of their terms. It’s a volume for browsing, revisiting the issues of President Obama’s first six months in office, and wondering how any President deals with the myriad demands on his time, energy, and intellect. You can do your own browsing here or add a copy to your personal library from here. For other volumes in this fine series, you can visit GPO’s Federal Digital System for those issued since 1991 or check our online bookstore by searching under “public papers” to see which ones are still in print.

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