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Recovery.gov Not Very Transparent

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the why-do-you-despise-progress? dept.

Government 222

Bob the Super Hamste writes "CNN is reporting that the page recovery.gov is not as transparent as it claims to be. The examples pointed out are: 1. The user is greeted by a large pie chart that show the breakdown of money spent by 2 categories, state government distributions and local government distributions. 2. Finding projects involves a complicated search, information on projects is not actually hosted on recovery.gov 3. The format of the information available is of poor quality (the article specifically mentions a PDF document that was created from a scanned sideways copy of roadwork projects from New York state). Given that this site was meant to make the spending of the new stimulus money more transparent to the citizens of the Unites States of America it seems oddly opaque. CNN does seem to praise the ability for government agencies to be able to exchange HTML based information between systems, which for government I would call a massive accomplishment. I tried to find information for my state and searched for Minnesota. I got 4 matches, 2 of which were generic ones: one was the Minnesota state certification that is required for a state to receive funds and one that lays out public transportation spending for all states of which Minnesota gets $94,093,115."

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222 comments

Not very transparent? (5, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261201)

That's because IE6 doesn't support alpha in PNG images. It's time to upgrade your browser, dude.

Re:Not very transparent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27261527)

Even if it did support transparency, nobody could read transparent text!

Yes they could make it much easier. (5, Funny)

rackserverdeals (1503561) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261203)

Finding projects involves a complicated search, information on projects is not actually hosted on recovery.gov

Instead of complicated search, just a pie chart showing a few categories. This money was wasted, this money was not wasted, we have no idea what happened to this money but we no longer have it and I could have sworn we had it.

Re:Yes they could make it much easier. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27261641)

Don't forget money that went to rich CEOs.

Re:Yes they could make it much easier. (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262059)

Don't forget the important category "What money?!".

It's about web design (3, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262283)

The information is there; you just have to spend several minutes to find it. Of course, it's a massive challenge to bring all this info together -- I'm sure that's why they have only general summaries on the main page and leave the details up to the state pages (since the states have the nitty-gritty details). That's the lazy route, but it requires more work on the part of your visitors. For example, here's my state's highway projects [iowadot.gov] and our local road projects [iowadot.gov] . Apparently they're going to be doing an overlay on 218, which I take whenever I drive to/from Cedar Rapids; fixing the pedestrian bridge on US 1 that was damaged by the flood that I sometimes walk on; doing some repairs at the Melrose and Sunset intersection on the UI campus, which I drive through perhaps once a month; replacing a bridge I drive over fairly regularly in Coralville; and doing some reconstruction up in Cedar Rapids on a road I drive on about once a month. But I had to follow the link to the Iowa site and navigate around in there to get those documents.

Tough challenge = slow implementation.

Re:Yes they could make it much easier. (4, Informative)

Mab_Mass (903149) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262539)

3D pie charts that show only 2 numbers are the devil's work.

What this tells me more than anything else is that although they want to be transparent, the people who put this together know almost nothing about presentation of data.

Please, everybody, read Tufte [edwardtufte.com] . Even if you don't agree with everything that he says, think about his points.

Then, for the love of God, never, ever, create a 3D pie chart again.

no kidding (1)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261207)

I've been trying to find out how the money will be used at the NSF but it is all hearsay. I would apply for a grant if I knew something for sure.

Re:no kidding (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27261889)

as someone working in a university research administration office, i agree NSF hasn't been as forthcoming as NIH. All I've seen from NSF is funding for projects they had previously declined to fund, whereas NIH has created whole new programs (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-OD-09-003.html).

If NSF does actually create new programs, I'm sure you'll hear something from them. For now though, I wouldn't hold my breath

I'm shocked. (4, Funny)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261209)

I'm completely and profoundly shocked over this startling revelation.

The Fleecing of America (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27261223)

US taxpayer money has *NEVER* really been tracked/reported fully and honestly. The public *NEEDS* to be aware of where their money goes. It is your money, your house, your car, your environment, YOUR GOVERNMENT and again, money.

Accounting/reporting where the money goes may be expensive - but can we afford not to?

Just please tell us where all this money is going. Be accountable for your actions. Be HONEST! The days of hiding shit are over.

Open Source Government.

Re:The Fleecing of America (3, Funny)

Hordeking (1237940) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261301)

Just please tell us where all this money is going. Be accountable for your actions. Be HONEST! The days of hiding shit are over.

Oh where, oh where art thou? How may I join thee in thy fantasy world?

well at least... (5, Interesting)

mastergoon (648848) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261235)

...the source of the site is transparent:

http://www.recovery.gov/modules/system/system.module [recovery.gov]

Hmm they really might want to get that Drupal updated to 6.10!

Re:well at least... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27261405)

array('powered-black' => t('Black'),

Re:well at least... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27262075)

/** * Implementation of hook_block(). * * Generate a block with a promotional link to Drupal.org. */ function system_block($op = 'list', $delta = 0, $edit = NULL) { switch ($op) { case 'list': $blocks[0] = array( 'info' => t('Powered by Drupal'), 'weight' => '10', // Not worth caching. 'cache' => BLOCK_NO_CACHE, ); return $blocks; case 'configure': // Compile a list of fields to show $form['wrapper']['color'] = array( '#type' => 'select', '#title' => t('Badge color'), '#default_value' => variable_get('drupal_badge_color', 'powered-blue'), '#options' => array('powered-black' => t('Black'), 'powered-blue' => t('Blue'), 'powered-gray' => t('Gray')), ); $form['wrapper']['size'] = array( '#type' => 'select', '#title' => t('Badge size'), '#default_value' => variable_get('drupal_badge_size', '80x15'), '#options' => array('80x15' => t('Small'), '88x31' => t('Medium'), '135x42' => t('Large')), ); return $form; case 'save': variable_set('drupal_badge_color', $edit['color']); variable_set('drupal_badge_size', $edit['size']); break; case 'view': $image_path = 'misc/'. variable_get('drupal_badge_color', 'powered-blue') .'-'. variable_get('drupal_badge_size', '80x15') .'.png'; $block['subject'] = NULL; // Don't display a title $block['content'] = theme('system_powered_by', $image_path); return $block; } }

Re:well at least... (1)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261523)

well at least hes delivering on his promise of commitment to open source :P

anyways heres a paste copy [ttp] in case the sys admin have an ooops moment

Re:well at least... (3, Interesting)

operator_error (1363139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261887)

all system files are exposed, for example: http://www.recovery.gov/modules/statistics/statistics.module [recovery.gov]

either they've set permissions wrong, or their .htaccess is failing, or...

Re:well at least... (2, Interesting)

mastergoon (648848) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261941)

I think the problem is that they do not have the .htaccess set up at all. You may notice they do not have clean URLs or 404s working either.

Re:well at least... (1)

operator_error (1363139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262011)

I wonder what they did, 'cuz Drupal can be tough to run at all if the .htaccess isn't working correctly.

Re:well at least... (4, Funny)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262619)

Nah, Barack Obama's teleprompter didn't tell him how to set up the permissions.

What the fuck? (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261915)

I'll confess that I haven't used Drupal. But shouldn't any self-respect web framework in 2009 not put source code under a publicly-accessible directory? I mean --- that's basic. People knew not to do that 15 fucking years ago.

Re:What the fuck? (4, Informative)

BountyX (1227176) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261999)

They implemented drupal on a winders server. By default, drupal comes with htaccess files that protects against this; however, since this is IIS, the htaccess files are no in effect. The windows administrator on the site never set the correct permissions in IIS. So no it has nothing to do with the distribution of the Drupal framework.

Re:What the duck? (1)

erstazi (1304229) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262237)

http://www.recovery.gov/ [recovery.gov] is running off Apache, so says the ServerSpy addon in Firefox.

Re:What the fuck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27262289)

They implemented drupal on a winders server. By default, drupal comes with htaccess files that protects against this; however, since this is IIS, the htaccess files are no in effect. The windows administrator on the site never set the correct permissions in IIS. So no it has nothing to do with the distribution of the Drupal framework.

Well, it has. But all frameworks/php-apps fail at that point too (drupal, wordpress and all the likes).

Why the hell are necessary the .htaccess for prevent accessing data? Because the data should not be on the web! Don't put it inside the apache/IIS/lighttpd/whatever public directory tree!

PHP (and I suppose all other server scripting languages / cgis) can access all the filesystem, inside or outside the web. So what's the point having sensible files inside the web tree...

yeah, I know... Joe Six-Pack installing drupal at home. Well... then fuck Joe (or if you don't fuck him, some attacker will do, so he is fucked anyways).

Re:What the fuck? (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262417)

IIS?

Apache Server at www.recovery.gov Port 82

Re:What the fuck? (1)

operator_error (1363139) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262001)

Um, don't blame drupal; its much more solidly released than this .gov example. Someone at the White House is doing it wrong.

Re:What the fuck? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27262133)

Someone at the White House is doing it wrong.

Everyone at the White House is doing it wrong. FTFY.

Better than nothing (4, Insightful)

scubamage (727538) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261255)

Considering the alternative was having no website, I'll accept this. Given that it has to be compatible with a wide variety of systems that Americans worldwide will be using to access it, and it had roughly 2 months of dev time, anything better than a "HAHA WE STOLE YOUR TAX DOLLARS" is at the very least appreciated. Even in its current incarnation, its better than trying to find the numbers on your own. Its not super usable, but its better than nothing.

Re:Better than nothing (2, Interesting)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261419)

Really it is just a start. Ideal would be to have a standard financial format for all government expenditures, that way we can create a website like google maps that charts everything that goes on.

If I were president, I would put transparency, corruption, and a balanced budget at the top of the list of priorities, because those are like tar that slows everything else down. Once you actually have a balanced budget you can see clearly how many resources you have available to put towards health care, what can be sacrificed, etc. The government would run so much more smoothly. Sigh.

Re:Better than nothing (4, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261579)

Unfortunately, it seems that now government officials need to have "experience" (i.e., they need to be properly trained in political corruption by former political experience). Normal people just wouldn't be able to do the job well, apparently. Stupid normal people.

Which is, I presume, why we get such smart legislation as banning talking on cell phones (without hands-free stuff) but NOT banning text messaging, etc. That one just happened to be recent in my mind. (it's a CA law)

Re:Better than nothing (1)

charlesnw (843045) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261875)

Laws that change human behavior take time and are incredibly expensive (lot of studies by those opposing/supporting the law, petitions etc). So the law was introduced in phases. Phase one required hands free, phase two eliminated texting.

Re:Better than nothing (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262163)

Except it makes no sense. Talking on a phone with it on your ear is far better, as far as SEEING the road, than texting with your phone down (and thus you looking and reading it). It went in opposite order than it should have, if your phase idea were correct, didn't it? To me, it seems more of a "Look, we're doing something about it! Cool, huh?" reaction from Sacramento, I suppose because of some group that wanted it passed. I don't know who that group would be, though, to be honest. :)

Re:Better than nothing (-1, Troll)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261961)

Whoa! Going off on a tangent much?

To the small degree your rant actually has anything to do with the thread, you seem to be saying that Obama's people are all incompetent nitwits whose sole qualification is their ability to help him rip people off. This might fit in with the meme that goes "Obama is a socialist islamist from the corrupt Chicago machine (and besides his birth certificate is phony)". But it's otherwise pretty at odds with the facts.

Re:Better than nothing (0, Flamebait)

lennier (44736) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262123)

Actually - and for context, I'm not an American, and not at all a supporter of Bush, and economically I'm a lot further to the left than Obama - my biggest disappointment so far with the Obama administration is just how many unreconstructed, unrepentant banking types and Bush appointees he's keeping/bringing into his administration.

There's 'experience' and there's 'corruption', and there's 'naivety' and there's 'corruption. It's hard to tell them apart. The charitable interpretation is that Obama is just being very, very conservative and far too trusting in who he appoints.

I fear he may go down in history not as Roosevelt, but as Hoover. Of course, FDR was fairly conservative when he tried to fix the economy too, and Obama at least is *trying* to put some money into infrastructure (ie, real things) even as he's flushing huge sums down the bankster drain.

And yes, when the guy he hires as CIO has to step down because of corruption in his home team, we should notice and complain. Bush's administration was filled with corruption scandals. I see no reason why Obama should get a free pass when the same thing happens on his watch. I don't care about party labels - I care about politics that 1) doesn't commit war crimes, and 2) isn't domestically corrupt. Doing less of 1) doesn't entitle you to more (or even the same amount) of 2).

Re:Better than nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27262465)

Barack Obama is a cautious corporate-friendly centrist (American centrist, in Europe you'd call him "hard right") who bows before the usual suspects including the FIRE sector, the Israel lobby and Keyser Soze.

The whole "He's a radical communist Muslim," has pretty much been shown to be a lie propagated by the other party.

However, he has thrown enough red meat around by overturning the stem cell ban and reevaluating stuff like "don't ask don't tell" and "abstinence only" that the whole two party farce can continue unabated.

Not that the American system has ever really allowed an option other than the two party system, the only big event was when the Whig party disbanded and most of its members joined the Republican party (including "honest" Abe).

However, I still think the man is more intelligent than his predecessor (not saying much), and may realize that if he wants to save capitalism he'll have to do something to stop an actual revolution further down the line.... but Americans will take a lot before anything like a red revolution would happen, so he might be safe ignoring the problem and tinkering at the edges. That's his current plan, and I shudder at the future.

Re:Better than nothing (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262147)

Nope, just following along with the conversation by the parent about what he would do if he were president. Common sense and the modern politician do not appear to coexist very often. yes, I think Obama is "just another politician." I didn't specifically mention him though, or even particularly mean to refer to him in any other way than I would refer to any other politician. On the other hand, your defensive reaction appears to imply that you think he is not a normal politician. I disagree there, without going into the socialist islamist never-was-born stuff. Corrupt Chicago Machine part, that seems a bit more plausible, but I don't have to resort to that to talk about his politician-ness. ontheissues.org is good enough. :)

Re:Better than nothing (2, Insightful)

rev_g33k_101 (886348) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262255)

"Obama is a socialist islamist from the corrupt Chicago machine (and besides his birth certificate is phony)".

He comes from the corrupt Chicago machine... you can not debate that, its fact! So I expect the same style of politics that brought us such greats as;

Rod Blagojevich

George Ryan

Richard M. Daley

and now....

Pat Quinn

Why do you think that Obama would be any different then the machine that raised him?

Re:Better than nothing (1)

Mal-2 (675116) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262149)

Incorrect. Texting while driving is also illegal. If the operator used speech-to-text to send it and did not have to touch the phone, that might be an interesting gray area, but as it stands now the only exemption is for "push to talk" systems, and that expires in 2011.

Mal-2

Re:Better than nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27262761)

Depends on the State

Re:Better than nothing (1)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261643)

We'll have to settle for one out of three, right now: They're working hard on the corruption angle. They seem to be making corruption a requirement for a cabinet appointment, for instance.

Re:Better than nothing (3, Interesting)

scubamage (727538) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261711)

Really it is just a start. Ideal would be to have a standard financial format for all government expenditures, that way we can create a website like google maps that charts everything that goes on.

I believe they're working on that - like a standardized format for all government documents using XML. I would have sworn there was something about that on /. a few months ago, though I could have had one too many hits from the snake.

Re:Better than nothing (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261803)

+1 Aladdin Reference :)

Re:Better than nothing (0, Troll)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262683)

"Snake" (or "trouser snake") is a popular gay pastime that involves snorting coke off a dick and chasing it down with piss or jizz.

Re:Better than nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27262313)

Really it is just a start. Ideal would be to have a standard financial format for all government expenditures, that way we can create a website like google maps that charts everything that goes on.

I believe they're working on that - like a standardized format for all government documents using XML. I would have sworn there was something about that on /. a few months ago, though I could have had one too many hits from the snake.

http://www.xml.gov/

Re:Better than nothing (2, Interesting)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261499)

<sarcasm>The site sucks! Recovery.com [recovery.com] is WAY better.</sarcasm>

Re:Better than nothing (1, Insightful)

shma (863063) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261551)

anything better than a "HAHA WE STOLE YOUR TAX DOLLARS" is at the very least appreciated.

I believe that was the website for the Bush stimulus plan.

Seriously, though it looks like they are just getting started, and I'm not surprised that there isn't much up there, since I bet very little of the stimulus has been spent. The money is going to be doled out over the course of two years, and there are a number of bureaucratic hurdles to go through first, I bet.

Re:Better than nothing (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27261623)

It's Obama's initative, so there is an alternative (logical one too): whitehouse.gov.

.

or even better: cbo.gov, irs.gov.

Like what's going to ahppen after the recovery? Will the website still be updated?

.

Recovery.gov is pure PR.
Anyway, all the information on the site is boilerplate stuff you see on your IRS tax directions booklet. Like the pie chart--it's in the back of the booklet every year. Of course if you pay taxes and got it in the trusty USPS mail (likely!) you would know...

Better than better than nothing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27261703)

Metagovernment [metagovernment.org] is an even better idea. In that case, there would be no "we" to do the stealing. Just us chickens.

Re:Better than nothing (1)

Gogo0 (877020) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262455)

really?
how about if they tax 75% of your earnings? do you reply "oh well, at least they didnt take 76%!"?
when does bullshit stop being acceptable?

its a ploy to gain public support by showing us vague pie charts.
if 'transparent-enough' satisfies your definition of 'transparency' then i suppose that they met their goal.

Uh... you know that.. (3, Informative)

Lazyrust (1101059) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261323)

You can rotate PDFs in Adobe Acrobat Reader, right? I thought CNN had a tech segment on their network? Couldnt they just ask the mail boy or someone how to spin the PDF so they could read it instead of have this melt down at their desk?

Re:Uh... you know that.. (5, Insightful)

ksheff (2406) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261469)

They certainly could have. Other sites have pointed out that publishing PDFs containing scanned versions of the hardcopy of the legislation is more about giving the appearance of being "open" while frustrating those who want to do text searches on the legislation. Those who want to do that have to take the extra step of running the images through an OCR process, which may introduce errors. The legislation had to be typed in somewhere, so they should be publishing the text version instead of scanned images.

None of this really surprises me.

Re:Uh... you know that.. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27261587)

When people were freaking about that legislation being scanned PDF only, there was an ASCII .txt version on Thomas the whole time just like with every other legislation.

Re:Uh... you know that.. (2, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261585)

If the thrust of your segment is "Look! They lied! This site is broken and will never be fixed! I can't USE IT!"

Do you think the first thing you are going to do is go ask your techie how to use the site more smoothly?

Check the timeline... (5, Informative)

CoolCash (528004) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261345)

If you look at the time line you will see that July 15th, 2009 is when "Recipients of Federal funding to begin reporting on their use of funds."

Re:Check the timeline... (4, Informative)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261755)

Here's a bit more of the timeline from the site... I seem to remember reading that there's no standard format defined for this data, so expect to see a bunch of garbage initially. If you want an easily manipulated database you might have to *shudder* get involved.

July 15, 2009
Recipients of Federal funding to begin reporting on their use of funds

May 20, 2009
Federal Agencies to begin reporting their competitive grants and contracts

May 15, 2009
Detailed agency financial reports to become available

May 03, 2009
Federal Agencies to make Performance Plans publicly available
Federal Agencies to begin reporting on their allocations for entitlement programs

March 03, 2009
Federal Agencies to begin reporting use of funds

February 19, 2009
Federal Agencies to begin reporting their formula block grant awards

Re:Check the timeline... (2, Informative)

bar-agent (698856) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262285)

I seem to remember reading that there's no standard format defined for this data, so expect to see a bunch of garbage initially. If you want an easily manipulated database you might have to *shudder* get involved.

They have defined the standard format for this data, as well as many of the procedures required, and then put the instructions to the agencies and departments up on the site. See the detailed guidance memorandum [recovery.gov] .

If you ask me, that is very transparent.

Department of Homeland Security (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27261353)

1 Billion
http://www.recovery.gov/?q=content/dhs-recovery-act-aviation-projects-create-3000-jobs

a curious attack (4, Insightful)

jamie (78724) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261357)

recovery.gov is not as transparent as it claims to be. The examples pointed out are: 1. The user is greeted by a large [pie] chart that show the breakdown of money spent by 2 categories, state government distributions and local government distributions.

That's not an example.

information on projects is not actually hosted on recovery.gov

Did someone promise it would be?

I would call [the information-exchange] a massive accomplishment

Strange title to this story, then.

Re:a curious attack (1)

athdemo (1153305) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261571)

not really a surprise, /. summaries are typically sensationalist or just wrong.

Re:a curious attack (1)

GPLDAN (732269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262525)

I just think it's funny that a guy named McCarthy is pointing out that this smells like a witch hunt.

Re:a curious attack (5, Funny)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262791)

as funny as a guy who works at slashdot pointing out how shitty the slashdot stories are?

Something the open source community should lead on (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261415)

is spinning up or co-opting something similar to wiki leaks. We can get the text of most the bills passed in PDF and maybe in other forms. It would be difficult but I think challenging them is the best route. Using this site they get a cop-out. Some will claim it is better than nothing but that isn't true, they will hide behind a guise of transparency without giving any. Oh it might be there but there are other routes to get it. Why are we trusting them to do this?

Heck, I would love to see every Congressman's page on Wikipedia updated with all the earmarks for their districts and states and their vote on the bill which funded them. Try it and it won't stick because it will be irrelevant which unfortunately the view too many people take.

The biggest issue other than getting the information in the first place is creating a process to break it out and categorize it properly. Then backing it up with a real search engine. The first and foremost rule must be that it is not under the moderation of a government entity. The amounts of money they are spending is criminal and since we can no longer rely on the press to call them out it becomes the duty of the community to do so.

Re:Something the open source community should lead (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27262041)

Did you read the TFA?

Elin thinks it will be a mere six months before a government watchdog group overlays data from Recovery.gov with Google maps, making a type of site where people could put in their zip code and see what stimulus projects are happening in their area.

But there's deeper stuff too.

Sociologists should be able to overlay stimulus numbers with census data to see what races or classes are benefiting most. Political scientists can overlay it with lobbing and campaign contribution data and see if there's a correlation between dollars donated and dollars received. Economists can overlay local GDP data and see if stimulus is really working. Investors could even use it for "trend analysis" - i.e., if an interchange goes up in Toledo, we know to expect three gas stations and a McDonalds within a year.

"Only the government can make this type of information available," said Elin. "And they're using the same automated language that everyone else is using on the Web."

A handful of third-party Web sites tracking stimulus spending have already sprouted, including Stimuluswatch.org, Readthestimulus.org, and USbudgetwatch.org/stimulus.

"We'll use it for information," said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a non-partisan watchdog group that runs the USbudgetwatch site. "It's going to be a massive amount of information, but so far it looks like they're off to a great start."

So it looks like there are already organizations with projects in the works.

Re:Something the open source community should lead (3, Informative)

David Greene (463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262275)

Heck, I would love to see every Congressman's page on Wikipedia updated with all the earmarks for their districts and states and their vote on the bill which funded them.

You mean like this [house.gov] ?

Congressional rules already require members to report their earmarks. More such rules are in the works.

And why such hating on earmarks? Earmarks in and of themselves are a good thing because they allow members to bring very local concerns and needs into the federal budgeting process. Sometimes the executive branch doesn't quite understand the local situations on the ground. That's why Congress controls the purse strings.

As long as earmarks are disclosed and go through some kind of vetting process (which they do now), I have no problem with them.

Not as easy as you might think (3, Insightful)

Monkeyman334 (205694) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261451)

I work with contracts, and I can tell you that what you're asking for is not easy. A $100,000,000 contract is easily going to take up a wall full of filing cabinets. It's not like you have a spreadsheet and can just get an itemized list of all the line items. Also, if you get too detailed into pricing you start getting into competitive information, and companies don't like it when you release that information (it might even be unlawful to release it). You might think, why can't they pull a list of line items? Well, they might for the original contract, but what happens when they modify the contract? Well, you can't just delete the item, because the government often owes for the portion of work that was completed before the item was deleted. So ... the contractor puts together an estimate of how much they've spent already, the government evaluates it, and gives back just a portion. There are often so many changes that this is a full time job for 1 contract and it gets convoluted very quickly.

Re:Not as easy as you might think (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262171)

I work with contracts, and I can tell you that what you're asking for is not easy. A $100,000,000 contract is easily going to take up a wall full of filing cabinets. It's not like you have a spreadsheet and can just get an itemized list of all the line items

Tough, you have to do it, so make it easy. Put everything in a spreadsheet when you start drafting the contract; no expense goes in the contract without being entered in the spreadsheet.

Also, if you get too detailed into pricing you start getting into competitive information, and companies don't like it when you release that information

Don't like it? Don't do work for the government.

You might think, why can't they pull a list of line items? Well, they might for the original contract, but what happens when they modify the contract? Well, you can't just delete the item, because the government often owes for the portion of work that was completed before the item was deleted.

Come on, we have tons of experience doing pretty much the same thing with version control systems, bug trackers, Wikipedia, etc. Throwing your hands in the air and saying "it's too hard" is just pathetic.

It's a hell of a lot more expensive to NOT have this information than it is to pay for the labor it takes to get it.

Re:Not as easy as you might think (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262199)

"Also, if you get too detailed into pricing you start getting into competitive information, and companies don't like it when you release that information (it might even be unlawful to release it). "

Then the law needs to be changed. The use of public money must NOT be a secret. If the commercial partners can't cope with sunlight, they can cope with not getting our tax money, and someone else can take their place. Fair's fair.

Yes, it happens everywhere right now. Secret trade treaties, secret outsourcing deals, public/private partnerships with 'commercially sensitive' contracts. That doesn't make it right.

It has to stop.

can hardly wait!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27261495)

I'm looking forward to the day my health care records will be managed this effectively!!!!

The whole process is not transparent (5, Interesting)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261513)

I would rather see the law making process more transparent, just look at the stimulus bill:

  • Obama promised not to sign bills that hadn't been posted online for the public to read for at least five days BEFORE the final vote was cast.
  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi, promised that the final version of the scam stimulus bill would be posted online for at least 48 hours before the vote.
  • The 1,073 page scam bill, with an extra 421 page Explanatory Statement, was delivered, still unfinished, at midnight Thursday.
  • The House passed the bill 14 hours and 24 minutes later.
  • The Senate did likewise 3 hours and 5 minutes after the House.

source: http://www.downsizedc.org/blog/hiding+the+sausage [downsizedc.org]

Re:The whole process is not transparent (1, Informative)

hansamurai (907719) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261603)

Sorry I left "scam" in there, didn't mean to present the site's bias in my post.

Re:The whole process is not transparent (2, Interesting)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261663)

By trying to hide the bias, you are giving the appearance that the information isn't biased. I fact, leaving it in there is a STRONG indicator it needs to taken with a grain of salt...the size of your head.

For a moment I will assume it's accurate.
You know what? considering the time they have had and the amount of change this is, I think they did a good job.
If they are doing this crap 18 months from now they might have a point.

Of course, I am not happy with the stimulus bill. I understand there thinking, but It seems to me it's the wrong approach.

Re:The whole process is not transparent (5, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261895)

The time they had? I think they had more time than they wanted you to think. When a politician says "we need to pass this bill now! we need to spend money now!" and when the bill is so long that most of the people that voted on it didn't even read it ...

I really don't see how waiting 48 hours (two days) would have killed the economy. Oh my goodness, we had to wait 48 more hours before waiting several more months before getting stimulus money.

If it wasn't bad enough that it's just spending more money than we actually have to somehow fix the problem of spending more money than we should be, on top of that it's been railroaded through Congress on the basis of a presumed crisis. I'm not saying there aren't people struggling or that the economy didn't "crash" but this is not the worst thing since the Great Depression (at least not yet, but the people saying that aren't forecasting with doubt, they're saying it IS ...) - of course, it was superficially inflated to begin with. What I am saying is that top democrats/leading democrats appear to have taken this "crisis" as an opportunity to push their agenda and "sell" it to the public using fear (including ridiculous numbers by Pelosi, who twice referred to "500 million jobs" being lost every month, etc).

Re:The whole process is not transparent (1)

JumpDrive (1437895) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262649)

What I am saying is that top democrats/leading democrats appear to have taken this "crisis" as an opportunity to push their agenda and "sell" it to the public using fear

It's kind of like having a couple of airplanes hit some building and using that as an excuse for doing whatever you want.

Re:The whole process is not transparent (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262779)

Without defending or criticizing Bush (can't we focus on the current administration's faults or whatever instead of constantly comparing it to Bush? Makes no sense, but even the Obama administration is doing it), I think there is an important distinction to make between the two presumed "crisis." This does not have bearing on how either administration handles it, but simply a distinction between the two "reasons" for actions.

Having what amounts to an attack (with real and more or less immediate deaths by people who want to destroy) is a bit of a different "crisis" than the stock market quickly deflating. Note that in the Great Depression, the stock market crashed almost instantly and people committed suicide that night. That's not happening. It's gradual. It's definitely NOT the same as the actual GP crisis, no matter how much someone's PR team tries to say it is. Point: this, if nothing else, was not as time-critical of a "crisis" as 9/11. Unless you can direct me to people 4000 odd people jumping out of buildings on account of the stock market. And even that: suicide is significantly different from being blown up or burned to death because some radical group hates you because you live in America.

Re:The whole process is not transparent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27262759)

The time they had? I think they had more time than they wanted you to think. When a politician says "we need to pass this bill now! we need to spend money now!" and when the bill is so long that most of the people that voted on it didn't even read it ...

Listen to Bloomberg Radio's On the Economy [radiotime.com] just over the last few days. They interview economists from around the country and around the world. All I've been hearing the last few weeks is how the government is moving too slow-- hell listen to yesterday's interview. They say we're going to suffer tremendously from the lack of action from the government and the huge amount of time it's been taking.

I really don't see how waiting 48 hours (two days) would have killed the economy. Oh my goodness, we had to wait 48 more hours before waiting several more months before getting stimulus money.

It's not just about when the money is spent, it's also how much damage is done to the financial sector while no decision is made and no bill is passed and credit is frozen. From what everyone's said, we've already blown the Sweden timeframe. The option to follow that model is already pretty much gone.

If it wasn't bad enough that it's just spending more money than we actually have to somehow fix the problem of spending more money than we should be, on top of that it's been railroaded through Congress on the basis of a presumed crisis.

Again, listen to the economists. Not talk radio. Not politicians. Not ideologues. Economists. You'll find widespread agreement-- we have a massive demand hole in our economy, and government alone can and needs to fix it. Government needs to be spending a lot more money and a lot faster or things go downhill. Every day in the short term prolongs the crisis by months if not years (see Japan).

Re:The whole process is not transparent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27261775)

Unfortunately the stimulus bill had to be passed quickly as any delay would set back any recovery further, and possibly break any deal that was worked out.

Bitching about a lack of transparency with the Obama administration though is ridiculous, compared to any previous administration. They are addressing all of their campaign promises, trying to fix an inherited recession, education reform with rewarding better teachers, closing Guantanamo, etc. Regardless of your politics drastic steps are being taken to reform old failed policies. Oh, and its like only been 50 some odd days wait a year or two, no way it can be worse than the Bush years, at least we have some credibility around the world for a change.

Re:The whole process is not transparent (4, Insightful)

Gogo0 (877020) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262581)

youre comparing a hobo's shit with a beautiful princess's shit. theyre both shit, and it doesnt matter which one dumped first.
i wish people would stop using the last administration's fuckups to excuse the current administration's fuckups.

Re:The whole process is not transparent (1)

natrixgli (1451261) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262291)

Here, let me fix this for you: Obama promised not to sign [non-emergency legislation] that hadn't been posted online for the public to read for at least five days BEFORE the final vote was cast.

Ahh, Cracked's Nirvana fallacy at work. (4, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261597)

Go read this [cracked.com] . Here, let me quote:

The Nirvana Fallacy is when you dismiss anything in the real world because you compare it to an unrealistic, perfect alternative, by which it pales in comparison. It wouldn't be a problem, except it keeps us from getting anything done.

Pathetic when Cracked is out there teaching such basic lessons... *sigh*

Re:Ahh, Cracked's Nirvana fallacy at work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27262401)

The Nirvana Fallacy is when you dismiss anything in the real world because you compare it to an unrealistic, perfect alternative, by which it pales in comparison.

Whatever happened to "being a perfectionist". Not good enough ?

Re:Ahh, Cracked's Nirvana fallacy at work. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27262561)

Couldn't one say the same thing about criticism of the Bush presidency?

I dont know about you (1)

NynexNinja (379583) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261743)

but I for one welcome our mouse overlords.

What would really be nice... (1)

mcguiver (898268) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261757)

What would really be nice is more transparency in the bills that get passed. It seems to me that when legislation to set auto emission standards is over 600 pages long that there is a problem. The United states was founded on a constitution that was 4440 words and now we have a code of federal regulations that is over 75,000 pages (Christopher Lee, The Washington Post, July 8, 2003). I'm just saying it would be nice if the law were a little more succinct so that we could see the details of the laws getting passed.

Re:What would really be nice... (2, Insightful)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261855)

I'm just saying it would be nice if the law were a little more succinct so that we could see the details of the laws getting passed.

If that were the case, they wouldn't be able to pass a Child Healthcare bill with millions allocated to impotence research... etc...

Also they wouldn't be able to create a reserve of laws that was sufficient to incriminate any citizen at any time.

Re:What would really be nice... (2, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261913)

But how could they hide things in the bills then? That would ruin any hope of fulfilling political agendas without most people noticing!

Uh, we have never had any transparency before (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261795)

Are criticisms of a new gov transparency important to get it improved? Yes. Should CNN be a lot more focused that this is a huge step in the right direction? Yes.

Re:Uh, we have never had any transparency before (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27261989)

FOIA

Re:Uh, we have never had any transparency before (1)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262801)

Ok, let me clarify. We have not had any easy transparency.

Wise man once say... (1)

noz (253073) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262047)

... something about public speaking: 10% content, 90% appearance.

And don't compare him to Kennedy. J.F. didn't have shit falling out of his mouth when he spoke.

Isn't the sniping a little early? (1)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262139)

I've heard a lot of criticisms of the current administration, for all of its flaws, a mere 2 months into its run. The rule of thumb has always been it takes about 3 months for a President to get everyone in place and to get running. Add to that we're in the midst of a near financial meltdown and people are nitpicking about the precision of data covering trillions in expenditures on a federal website about 2 months old? Give it time.

State's Haven't Allocated Yet! (2, Informative)

David Greene (463) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262165)

I live in Minnesota. I also happen to have worked on transportation issues for many years. I know a bit about how this all works.

Most of the ARRA transportation money comes through the Surface Transportation Program, which is based on a formula for state and mode allocation. The $94,093,115 for public transportation in Minnesota comes from that formula. The money goes to the state's Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and DOTs. The MPO for the Twin Cities is a combination of the Metropolitan Council [metrocouncil.org] and the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) [metrocouncil.org] . The TAB is technically a governing body of the Met Council, due to the fact that the Met Council is not composed of elected officials.

The TAB is currently reviewing the list of projects to receive funding. They're quite limited on the transit side because few big transit projects are ever "shovel ready" the way roads are due to the federal planning process. I could write a book about the enormous advantage skew toward roads over transit in federal policy, but that's for another time. The fact that no transit projects are shovel-ready is a symptom of that.

So the TAB is spending quite a bit of time deciding where road money should go. MN-610 is definitely in. There's a debate over the I-494/US-169 interchange. That started just yesterday. There are many bridges in the Twin Cities metro area that need rehabilitation or replacement.

Greater Minnesota is the other big part of this. I'm less familiar with this side but my assumption is that Mn/DOT is making a determination of how to prioritize funds using its long-term transportation plan.

The point is that this all takes time. recovery.gov cannot show where the money goes until we actually decide where it's going to go.

There's no big conspiracy here. The fact that states have to explicitly report how the money gets used is a huge step forward over the way highway dollars usually get spent. Lots of people (including me) are working hard to ensure the new transportation authorization being written right now adds lots more language about transparency and accountability.

it IS transparent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27262175)

Welcome to the world of the government. This IS transparency.

Do you really think there is some shiny document in a nice ODS spreadsheet format with all the government's accounting?

This just illustrates that often the people running the country know just as much, or even less, than the rest of us.

Not Very Transparent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27262269)

Who cares?
We should be smart enough by now not to believe anything they say.

XML hopes dashed... (1)

adjustable_pliers (1409219) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262293)

I was hoping that recovery.gov would have had some robust, thorough XML files of the recovery and stimulus budget, with hypertext links to each project's or program's website. These web sites would have used microformats denoting addresses, timelines, statuses, key people, etc. It's just a thought...

Change Takes Time... (1)

SwashbucklingCowboy (727629) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262385)

The criticisms seem quite valid. At the same time, it's not surprising that all of the existing data wasn't in easily consumed formats, much less the same format.

Give them time...

Welcome to the glorious USA (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27262595)

So you say your government's fucking its citizens up the ass for a buck ?

I say cry me a river. What were you expecting, free ponies?!

One man in a suit cannot change the world, especially when that man is merely a spokesperson for Corporate America.

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