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US Open Government Sites To Close

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:23PM (#35702812)

    Can we donate? I'm serious.

    • by oldmeddler (1614805) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:36PM (#35702954)
      Sure thing. PM me and I'll send you my PayPal info and make sure the money gets to the right place.
    • by Seumas (6865)

      I'm pretty sure these are some of the same sites we donated $18m and $40m for, to pay for "drupal installations". And by "donate", I mean "paid taxes for". And have you seen a lot of these sites? Broken links. Meaningless data. Often slow updates. These were empty gestures and big cash handouts.

      • Bingo.

        Cash grab, like many other "programs" and if you "cut" them, they will roll out some poor soul who was "helped" by the program, as if anecdotal evidence is proof that the program is needed.

    • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @09:59PM (#35704292)
      You already donate it's called taxes.
  • Bitter Irony (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SilverHatHacker (1381259) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:26PM (#35702832)
    From the article:

    We need at least another $4 million just to keep USASpending.gov operating this year.

    $4mil to keep a website going for one year? Think if I called them up and offered to do it for 3 they'd take it?

    • Re:Bitter Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MoonBuggy (611105) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:33PM (#35702920) Journal

      $4 million? A pittance! Apparently a paid registration system costs ten times that [harvard.edu].

      Servers and hosting cost a few thousand to a few tens of thousands per year, full time developers and admins cost a less than $100k per year. All I can say is that whoever managed to walk off with the rest of the cash has got it made.

      • Re:Bitter Irony (Score:5, Informative)

        by SilverHatHacker (1381259) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @07:01PM (#35703166)

        An investment firm is hiring mathematicians. After the first round of interviews, three hopeful recent graduates - a pure mathematician, an applied mathematician, and a graduate in mathematical finance - are asked what starting salary they are expecting. The pure mathematician: "Would $30,000 be too much?" The applied mathematician: "I think $60,000 would be OK." The math finance person: "What about $300,000?" The personnel officer is flabberghasted: "Do you know that we have a graduate in pure mathematics who is willing to do the same work for a tenth of what you are demanding!?" "Well, I thought of $135,000 for me, $135,000 for you - and $30,000 for the pure mathematician who will do the work."

        Same principle applies here, I suppose.

        • by causality (777677)

          An investment firm is hiring mathematicians. After the first round of interviews, three hopeful recent graduates - a pure mathematician, an applied mathematician, and a graduate in mathematical finance - are asked what starting salary they are expecting.
          The pure mathematician: "Would $30,000 be too much?"
          The applied mathematician: "I think $60,000 would be OK."
          The math finance person: "What about $300,000?"
          The personnel officer is flabberghasted: "Do you know that we have a graduate in pure mathematics who is willing to do the same work for a tenth of what you are demanding!?"
          "Well, I thought of $135,000 for me, $135,000 for you - and $30,000 for the pure mathematician who will do the work."

          Same principle applies here, I suppose.

          It's staggering to consider how accurate that really is. It's rare for a compact post to contain so much real-world truth. This neatly explains much of both government and large corporations.

          Well done, sir!

          • yes, but (Score:5, Insightful)

            by turkeyfish (950384) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @08:49PM (#35703934)

            this is precisely what republicanism and "shrinking the government" is all about. Of course, they are even more clever by slipping in all their favorite kickback schemes into the defense budget that no one dares touch for fear of being labeled anti-American. Its the perfect scam. No or a shrinking government lets them get away with anything they want and you and I get to pay for it in further reductions in regulations and services that may potentially save the lives of millions. Republicans are good at recognizing that millions can starve or die as long as they get their millions.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Curunir_wolf (588405)
              Your mistake is thinking that somehow government is actually doing something to prevent millions from starving or dying.
      • War (Score:5, Informative)

        by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @09:16PM (#35704098)

        $4 million is what. 20 minutes in Iraq/Afghanistan? A day in the "War on Drugs"?

      • by cgenman (325138)

        And constantly updating it? Data doesn't feed itself.

    • Re:Bitter Irony (Score:4, Insightful)

      by icebraining (1313345) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @07:02PM (#35703180) Homepage

      Data.gov probably uses more money gathering and curating the tons of data they offer than with hosting.

    • Re:Bitter Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Sir_Sri (199544) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @07:13PM (#35703250)

      4 million dollars would pay 30-40 people. That's not a whole lot, considering all of the data that has to be collected, checked, massaged into the right format, made compliant with accessibility rules, press dealings, server support, IT support for staff, and so on. I'm not an american so I'm not all that familiar with how funding is allocated in detail, but the site seems to spend a lot of time on awards, and sub award reporting. Presumably 'awards' could be easily extracted from regular budget documents but sub awards can't? There's seems to be a lot of time devoted to analysis of the data as well (which could drive costs up a lot if you have a few PhD's in stats or econ doing the analysis), in addition to building the flash visualization stuff.

      On top of all of the sort of obvious stuff I'm sure there's a lot of legal there too. You can't always just go and blab what contractors you're giving money to, or if you can you need to verify the information you're going to say about the company. There can be a big difference between a deal with a company that is myurl.net and myurl.com, and you don't want to say they got 10 million dollars when they got 1, or 100.

      As with all any large outfit, the more money you spend accounting for the money you're spending, the less is available for the actually things you're trying to do. It becomes a balance between the legitimate need to know where money is going, and the equally legitimate need to not waste 50 cents on every dollar documenting where you spent the other 50 cents. It seems like most everything on this website is available elsewhere, not necessarily easily. Whether or not a few millions of dollars in data aggregation on top of billions in accounting for trillions in spending is providing good value, especially when it's not my money, is beyond me.

      • by tsm_sf (545316)
        That's not a whole lot, considering all of the data that has to be collected, checked, massaged into the right format, made compliant with accessibility rules, press dealings, server support, IT support for staff, and so on.

        I think you've hit the nail on the head here. What this project sought to do was a colossal undertaking, and it's not clear that the right people were found for the job.

        I could see the framework for a project like this easily taking a decade to set up, and that wouldn't (and prob
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      From the article:

      We need at least another $4 million just to keep USASpending.gov operating this year.

      $4mil to keep a website going for one year? Think if I called them up and offered to do it for 3 they'd take it?

      Depends. Are you going to do all the data collection, tabulations, etc? That $4-million figure wasn't just to run some Apache server stuff in the corner. It's the entire program that's being cut. It's no real great loss since traffic to these servers was negligible anyway. In the long run, it's actually cheaper to respond to FOIA requests than the maintain the full-disclosure types of websites.

      Keep in mind these were the half-assed answers to political campaign promises about open govt. They were neve

  • Huh? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:26PM (#35702840)

    Ironic. Shut down the websites that watchdog government spending due to lack of funding. I'm shocked.

    • by 517714 (762276)
      Never attribute to irony that which can be adequately explained by conspiracy.

      with apologies to R.J. Hanlon

  • This Is Pointless (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlingojones (919531) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:27PM (#35702846) Homepage
    There are three giant money-sucking programs that need drastic cuts if we want to do anything about the budget: Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and Defense.

    The few million dollars these sites cost to run is a drop in the bucket compared to those three programs.
    • by causality (777677)

      There are three giant money-sucking programs that need drastic cuts if we want to do anything about the budget: Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and Defense.

      The few million dollars these sites cost to run is a drop in the bucket compared to those three programs.

      It's something of a myth that government is incompetent or can't get a job done well. It's just that their priorities are quite different from ours. Those first two programs you mention are very good at accomplishing their primary purpose which is to buy votes. They fail miserably at other things such as solvency but that's no concern to the politicians as long as the primary purpose fulfilled.

      Retirees tend to vote, consistently, and in very large homogeneous blocs. No legislator who wants to be re-elec

      • Almost everyone could retire as a multimillionaire with such an arrangement even with a modest income.

        Where would that money come from? If everyone started investing with such plans, wouldn't they pay much, much less?

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @07:00PM (#35703156) Homepage

      If you put all of the FICA taxes and T-bills owned by the Social Security Administration towards what they're supposed to be going for, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, are doing collectively just fine right now, and will continue to be more-or-less just fine for decades.

      The problem is that instead the significant surpluses in FICA were used to cover up even-more-massive deficits in the general treasury. And where and when those deficits came isn't a mystery: In short, blame can be laid pretty squarely at the feet of Ronald Reagan [wikimedia.org] (notice the huge inflection point between 1945 and 2010).

      Basically, Reagan claimed he could cut taxes without affecting revenue. The effect of trying this was that he effectively proved that this was utter nonsense. But everybody likes paying less in taxes, so people who pointed out that it was nonsense were effectively told "Shhhh! Don't give the game away".

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by khallow (566160)

        If you put all of the FICA taxes and T-bills owned by the Social Security Administration towards what they're supposed to be going for, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, are doing collectively just fine right now, and will continue to be more-or-less just fine for decades.

        Not true.First, the T-bills are a legal fiction. Second, the medical care programs and to a lesser extent Social Security all have rapidly expanding costs.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        If you put all of the FICA taxes and T-bills owned by the Social Security Administration towards what they're supposed to be going for, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, are doing collectively just fine right now, and will continue to be more-or-less just fine for decades.

        In 1967, a Democratic Congress (247-187 House, 64-36 Senate) passed legislation (an amendment to the Social Security Act) that was signed by Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, which declared that any government program running a surplus would transfer that surplus to the general fund with a promise that the general fund would repay the program in years that the program was running a deficit.

        Those brand new Great Society entitlement programs had vastly exceeded their projections within two years and com

    • Do we need to cut anything? Think hard about where money comes from - under the fractional reserve system, banks can multiply deposits by 10. Why shouldn't govt do the same?

      The economic problem is not the central problem of mankind. The advance of knowledge and innovation is. How can we encourage the natural curiosity and sense of wonder that leads to creative solutions? The mentality of "Katie bar the door" is not conducive to invention.

      What govt should do is provide a basic income (as founding father Tom

      • by causality (777677) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @08:03PM (#35703622)

        Do we need to cut anything? Think hard about where money comes from - under the fractional reserve system, banks can multiply deposits by 10. Why shouldn't govt do the same?

        They are doing that. It's called inflation and it's the biggest hidden tax of them all. For those who consider this a top priority, it's also an incredibly regressive tax. That's because most wealthy people have their money tied up in appreciating assets that scale with inflation. Most everyone else has their money in bank accounts. It's hard to live within your means, slowly build wealth, and move up when the money you are saving is constantly devalued. It's one of many forces that help to limit upward mobility and ensure that those who work hard and are not currently wealthy are unlikely to become wealthy.

        The economic problem is not the central problem of mankind. The advance of knowledge and innovation is. How can we encourage the natural curiosity and sense of wonder that leads to creative solutions? The mentality of "Katie bar the door" is not conducive to invention.

        The problem with that is that when a nation starts going bankrupt, the majority population becomes so busy trying to do things like avoid starvation that there remains little time and energy to advance knowledge and invent new things.

        What govt should do is provide a basic income (as founding father Tom Paine proposed in 1795's "Agrarian Justice") and stimulate innovation through challenges (of course private businesses such as Google, Netflix etc. can hold challenges too).

        If it would work that would be nice. There are a few problems that quickly come to mind and there are likely more than that. One is that this would require a huge investment of trust in the government. Providing a realistic income to every last adult in the nation would require a government even larger and more powerful (legally and economically) than the one we have now. I look at the assholes in power and I see little more than incompetence and insatiable hunger for power. If we are going to put this much more trust in our politicians then we need better politicians.

        The other problem is that very large systems based on extremely centralized micromanagement of human behavior tend not to work out. The only reason corporations can pull that off is because they are dictatorships and each member is relatively easy to eliminate and replace. Then consider that the only challenges that would receive funding are those you can get large, bureaucratic committees staffed with politicians to agree with and support. Proposals involving a scientific discipline are exceedingly unlikely to be reviewed and approved by people who actually understand the science. Then you'd still have all the usual problems of cronyism in which the politicians' buddies and supporters have an easier time getting a challenge approved.

        In conclusion, Reagan proved that deficits don't matter, Alexander Hamilton held that debt is a blessing, Lincoln printed over $400 million greenbacks, and the Panic of 1837 followed Jackson's paying off the national debt.

        Reagan proved that most corporations who are given generous tax breaks would rather give that money to their shareholders than the rank-and-file employees actually performing the work. Hamilton was a supporter of centralized banks and fiat currency and debt is an integral and unavoidable component of that arrangement. Lincoln's greenbacks were interest-free currency because Lincoln was wise enough to foresee the inevitable collapse of a system in which money has interest attached at the moment it is created, namely because there is never enough money in circulation to pay back the debt.

        The Panice of 1837 wasn't caused by Jackson paying off the national debt. The Panic was caused by drastic inflation that happened over a length of time that was followed by sudden intense defla

    • by lennier (44736) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @07:21PM (#35703308) Homepage

      three giant money-sucking programs that need drastic cuts if we want to do anything about the budget: Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and Defense

      Mmm, because a disease-racked, starving underclass is the perfect foundation for a stable and prosperous democratic society. But if we at least fund the military, the desperatly hungry, plague-ridden rabble with no jobs and no future will at least be well-trained in modern urban combat and the overthrow of oppressive (or just annoying) regimes.

      Nothing about this bold social plan could ever possibly go wrong!

      • Mmm, because a disease-racked, starving underclass is the perfect foundation for a stable and prosperous democratic society.

        Obviously it's not ideal, but we have a fifteen TRILLION dollar deficit. There need to be sacrifices made, either by cutting spending, increasing taxes, or both.

        But if we at least fund the military, the desperatly hungry, plague-ridden rabble with no jobs and no future will at least be well-trained in modern urban combat and the overthrow of oppressive (or just annoying) regimes.

        I was advocating CUTTING the defense budget.

      • by sarhjinian (94086) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @08:53PM (#35703980)

        Nothing about this bold social plan could ever possibly go wrong!

        Well, America could implement, say, the kind of health care plan that any other western nation has and probably cut Medicare expenses (and overall health spending, public and private) and still come out ahead, or at least be able to fund social security in a sustainable fashion. But of course, you can't have a single-payer system that comprehensively covers all your citizens. Oh, no. That's socialism, and we can't have that! It's wrong for the government to employ a bunch of doctors and nurses and have themgo around and heal people!

        You can, mind you, have the government employ a huge, well-armed and trained military force to kill people. That's perfectly ok.

        • by cdrguru (88047)

          Sadly, this is utterly unrealistic. If you think we could do it cheaper if the government was the sole health care provider and paid all the bills, you aren't living in America.

          The first problem is the people. In no other country on Earth are the people utterly addicted to junk food and also demanding the best outcomes in health care. You visit any hospital outside the US and you find people of all ages. Go in nearly any hospital in the US and you will find old people clinging to the last few days of li

    • by AmberBlackCat (829689) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @08:08PM (#35703660)

      There are three giant money-sucking programs that need drastic cuts if we want to do anything about the budget: Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, and Defense. The few million dollars these sites cost to run is a drop in the bucket compared to those three programs.

      At least Medicare and Social Security are doing something for American citizens.

  • by countertrolling (1585477) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:28PM (#35702868) Journal

    for social media propaganda and sockpuppet accounts... Eh.. whatever. The whole thing is such bullshit

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:29PM (#35702870)

    When sites like WikiLeaks do that for you for free?

  • by SpzToid (869795) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @06:50PM (#35703078)

    Special interest groups own Washington. Consistent, open data and an informed public are usually at odds with these special interest groups. It was a milestone to get these initiatives started in the first place, but in this climate? I mean, NPR got cut, and while that might not sound like much, decent radio as we know it just DIED across most of rural America; and its the radio that often tied whole communities together.

    There's a reason America has the best government money can buy.

    No one should be immune to cuts. But should such information programs be killed off with nothing to replace them with? If nothing else, such websites help dispute so much of the opinionated pundit talk that Fox 'News' airs for hours and hours during Prime Time. There's those medical Death Squad panels you hear about, looking to save money by cutting medical support for old people, and then there's the facts.

    • by X_Bones (93097)
      decent radio as we know it just DIED across most of rural America

      um no. The House voted to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), from which NPR gets some but not all of its money. The provision won't make it out of the Senate, and even if it does the President still has to sign it into law, and even if he does NPR still gets revenue from user donations and from local stations subscribing to its content.

      It's a damn shame that House Republicans are playing games like this when they promis
      • by SpzToid (869795)

        To back up what I said about the pain felt by small rural radio stations, “The truth about the NPR issue is that zeroing out the funding for CPB will only hurt public broadcasting stations, not NPR. NPR charges us for programming and will continue to do so regardless of our budget issues,” said Ferro. “The real hit will be absorbed by local stations like KCRW who employ local people and have an important relationship with local communities.”

        http://ngawronsky.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/ [wordpress.com]

      • by riverat1 (1048260)

        Part of that bill included not allowing local public radio and television stations to spend money they get from the Feds on programming from the CPB. Since a large share of their programming comes from the CPB this would hurt the local affiliates immensely.

    • by lennier (44736)

      those medical Death Squad panels you hear about, looking to save money by cutting medical support for old people

      Ah yes. We call those "private health insurers".

    • Ultimately it may be necessary for ordinary citizens to set up workgroups and consistently monitor, file freedom of information requests, obtain data from their friends who work in the government on an unofficial basis, just so that the citizenry can keep track of what the republicans are really up to. Personally, I'm not at all excited about their efforts to hide what they are doing, drastically slashing our rights to know, as well as our ability to act collectively, such as the plan to allow children und

  • At this point, there are only 12 comments visible. Why?

    • by cstacy (534252)

      At this point, there are only 12 comments visible. Why?

      See the "neuralizer" thread?

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @07:15PM (#35703268) Homepage Journal

    The Libya investment costed so far at least 186 millons [americanindependent.com], but having a friendly government there willing to share their oil with US corporations will return that investment several times in the next years.

    Also investing in something like that, after all the money they invested in discrediting Wikileaks and anything they published, looks like a waste.

  • by borgheron (172546) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @07:21PM (#35703306) Homepage Journal

    More like from the "We don't really want you watching and we're not really open and want to make it more difficult for you to monitor unecessary government spending department."

    GC

  • Same as old.

  • They're open. Duh.

  • by st0rmshad0w (412661) on Sunday April 03, 2011 @08:32PM (#35703834)

    Every fucking politician is a lying duplicitous scumbag, and we should be able to sue their asses when they break their promises.

    Verbal contracts are binding in my state, I think campaign promises should fall under those rules.

  • And Drupal was a rousing success for that one site. Well except it took 20 minutes to display data. IT Dashboard for sure.

  • Priorities (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 03, 2011 @10:20PM (#35704388)

    And yet somehow there's always funding to rain $600,000 missles down on some 3rd world nation. Oh, well. I guess they fund what matters to them.

  • by memnock (466995) on Monday April 04, 2011 @09:56AM (#35707440)

    they'd find another "reason" to shut it down. I'd try to blame the Republicans, but Obama probably supports closing down such sites just as much. He's been following in Bush's shoes when it comes to accumulating power and using the cloak of "security" for justifying all sorts of b.s.

The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. -- Niels Bohr

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