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Thinktank Aims To Crowdsource Government Earmark Analysis 100

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the forcing-a-new-evolution-of-corruption dept.
Al writes "The Sunlight Foundation, based in Washington, DC, hopes to raise an army of web volunteers to analyze all the earmarks in government bills. The group's new Sunlight Labs transparency corps invites users to join an effort to analyze the information collaboratively. Users are presented with PDFs released by hundreds of different offices and asked to enter the pertinent information like the date and dollar amount of a request, name of the requester, description of the project, and so on. These then become part of a searchable database. The project's launch roughly coincided with the launch earlier this month of the government's new IT Dashboard. But this tool is somewhat limited — users can find the primary recipients of IT project funding, but not subcontractors; it's not easy to discern the origins of contracts or their geographic distribution, and it's almost impossible to see how they are connected to elected officials."
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Thinktank Aims To Crowdsource Government Earmark Analysis

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  • by Presto Vivace (882157) <marshall@prestovivace.biz> on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:35PM (#28931119) Homepage Journal
    contrary to popular opinion, the big difference between lobbyists and ordinary voters isn't money (although money matters), it is access to information on a timely basis. Putting information online will have a huge impact on the legislative process.
    • "These then become part of a searchable database."

      There should be a law that agencies enter this information themselves.
      • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:01PM (#28931469)
        It is not in the interest of the legislators to pass such a law, so if by some chance they were to create one, it would be written in such a way as to make the information APPEAR to be useful, but actually be incomprehensible.
        The current leaders in Congress have been saying for the last couple of weeks that it is unreasonable to expect Congressional Representatives to read the bills before they vote on them because they don't have the time and even if they did have the time, they couldn't understand them.
        • by soren202 (1477905)

          The current leaders in Congress have been saying for the last couple of weeks that it is unreasonable to expect Congressional Representatives to read the bills before they vote on them because they don't have the time and even if they did have the time, they couldn't understand them.

          Well.... it is unreasonable to expect that.

          Have you read any of the legislation being put out recently? Although the pages are short, they take about an hour to fully comprehend each.

          Although it sounds horrible, keeping up with legislation being put forth is more than a full time job. Although there should be some level of responsibility for congressmen, sometimes it's understandable if they leave the reading like this up to the people putting the legislation forth, or to their aides/staff, even if it is ge

          • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:27PM (#28931807)

            The current leaders in Congress have been saying for the last couple of weeks that it is unreasonable to expect Congressional Representatives to read the bills before they vote on them because they don't have the time and even if they did have the time, they couldn't understand them.

            Well.... it is unreasonable to expect that.

            Then they need to craft laws that they can understand, or resign and leave the job to someone who will (or who can comprehend the laws being proposed).
            If a legislator cannot understand a law that is put before him/her, that legislator should vote against it. If the bill is too big to read through before voting on it, the legislator should vote against it. If there isn't enough time to keep up with the legislation being put forward, then too much legislation is being put forward.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              If I can't understand the consequences of my decisions at my job, then I am considered incompetent.
              How is it different for legislators?
              If the system is such that it simply does not allow enough time to actually comprehend the full amount of draft, then the process needs to be changed.
              It is simply unacceptable that our representatives vote on bills that they can not fully understand and comprehend.

            • by cbs4385 (929248) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:54PM (#28932209)
              But then when will they have the time to engage in their real job, raising money for their reelection bid?
            • by BlueStrat (756137)

              The current leaders in Congress have been saying for the last couple of weeks that it is unreasonable to expect Congressional Representatives to read the bills before they vote on them because they don't have the time and even if they did have the time, they couldn't understand them.

              Well.... it is unreasonable to expect that.

              Then they need to craft laws that they can understand, or resign and leave the job to someone who will (or who can comprehend the laws being proposed).
              If a legislator cannot understand

            • by Shads (4567)

              That is a tremendously wise attitude necessary to the proper function of a government for the people.

              Unfortunately, the US federal government is no longer that body.

            • I don't think this is necessarily fair. Laws inherently need to be complex, as they address complex issues. While you may find a person that can fully understand ONE area of law, it would be impossible to find a single congressperson (or any person) who could understand fully ALL the laws that cover all areas of government. Take an environmental protection law for example... to fully understand the consequences of a carbon tax, for example, you would need to be an expert in climate science, economics, et

              • I don't think this is necessarily fair. Laws inherently need to be complex, as they address complex issues. While you may find a person that can fully understand ONE area of law, it would be impossible to find a single congressperson (or any person) who could understand fully ALL the laws that cover all areas of government. Take an environmental protection law for example... to fully understand the consequences of a carbon tax, for example, you would need to be an expert in climate science, economics, etc... you will never find anyone that is an expert in all of the things required.

                What you hope, is that a congressperson surrounds himself with the necessary experts, who brief him/her as well as they can on the things they have to know to come to a sound decision. Anyone who thinks they can understand all of the consequences of a law all by themselves is delusional.

                First of all, I wasn't talking about understanding the consequences. I was talking about actually understanding what the law calls for. If legislators can't understand what the law actually says, how can they expect people to obey the law? For that matter, how can they know if people are obeying the law?
                However, I would also argue that if a legislator cannot be expected to understand the consequences of a law, then the government has no business passing a law on that topic...or it should break the law down

            • If a legislator cannot understand a law that is put before him/her, that legislator should vote against it.

              BO's new health-care bill is over a thousand pages. Nobody is even pretending they've had enough time to read it through, let alone understand it. And, BO is doing everything he can to get it pushed through Congress as quickly as possible. Clearly, he doesn't want anybody to know what they're voting on. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

          • by sorak (246725)

            I can see it as long, as they have a few lawyers or pre-law staffers who can go over hte legal aspects of the bill. In fact, I would rather know that the laws are being written by lawyers, as opposed to the jack-ass in a cowboy hat who spends most of his days going to diners so he can kiss hands and shake babies.

            • by Shads (4567)

              Actually having worked in the computer industry and having had extensive exposure to the types of things attorney's tend to write... I hope no law should ever be written by an attorney. A law should be readable and understandable by anyone who reads it. Attorneys will even tell you they can't practice outside their specialty because *THEY CAN'T UNDERSTAND* the nuances of the other specialties.

              • by sorak (246725)

                I believe the reason they are not more clear is because they are trying to be precise enough, when needed, and vague enough, when needed, to close off any major loopholes.
                .
                I could be wrong about that, however. The main thing is that I want to know that my elected official is deciding the general direction, but is getting the best help available when it comes to specific details.
                .
                For example, during the cap & trade discussions, did any politician ever call anyone involved in the passing of the European c

          • Although it sounds horrible, keeping up with legislation being put forth is more than a full time job.

            Which is why, of course, members of Congress each tend to have more than one person assigned to do that job; look at any representative or Senator's staff listing at legistorm [legistorm.com] or any similar site, and note the number of staffers with titles like "Legislative Director", "Legislative Correspondent", "Legislative Aide", "Legislative Assistant", "Legislative Research Assistant", etc.

            High-level decision makers i

        • they don't have the time

          Seriously, could you read a bill with a schedule like this?

          - How The Average Congressperson Spends Their Time -

          Voting on legislation - 2.1%
          Talking with constituents - 2.4%
          Travel - 8.0%
          Meeting with lobbyists - 12.5%
          Trying to get reelected - 18%
          Vacations / Holidays - 24.7%
          Seducing male pages - 32.3%

      • by rah1420 (234198)

        There should be a law that agencies enter this information themselves.

        Absolutely not. This is exactly why we need this sort of group, to shine a light on their activities. I don't need the fox watching the henhouse.

      • There should be a law that congress has to implement a document management system, so that we know who added what to a bill, and when. So that people stop pulling the good ol switcheroo, and dropping a slightly different bill than the one the committee approved on the floor for a vote. I know that the Library of Congress has some tools, but as far as I have been able to tell, they do not track the versions of a bill.

        It is in the interest of Voters for force the hands of the legislators in this.

      • we agree! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sbma44 (694130) on Monday August 03, 2009 @04:48PM (#28932981)

        I work at the Sunlight Foundation (though not on this project), and I feel I can safely say that we completely agree with you that the government *should* be issuing this data in a more easily usable format.

        To be fair, though, it's not always as easy as all that: when you introduce such an infrastructure you need to make sure there are staff resources to handle the data entry, training available to help them do it, and somebody checking the overall data quality. My project's been looking at a lot of grant data, and we've consistently found that the central grant data directory -- a data set called FAADS -- is of lower quality than the reports issued on each program's website in excel, PDF, HTML tables or who knows what else. It doesn't make a lot of sense to people like you and me, but centralized systems really do introduce an added layer of difficulty for the data entry people. Just keeping track of the endless requirements imposed by legislation can be pretty daunting.

        ...none of which is to say that this shouldn't happen. It should! But it does explain why "publish earmarks" and "publish earmarks in a central location, in a machine-readable format" are two different things, and why the latter is more difficult to successfully ask for. We'll get there, though.

      • There should be a law that agencies enter this information themselves.

        What agencies?

    • On the surface, this does sound like a good project, one that does bring a bit more transparency to our government as a whole.

      However, if there is a groundswell against earmarks, I wonder how it's going to affect projects which at first glance don't look worthwhile. I think it would disproportionately affect science and the arts as they're often seen as luxuries rather than necessities.
      • by schnikies79 (788746) on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:46PM (#28931281)

        Then they should get their own bill. Spending for the arts shouldn't be tacked on a defense bill just like a new weapon shouldn't be tacked on to a arts bill.

        • by Etrias (1121031)
          Why does defense get a free pass? You think there aren't a lot of defense earmarks tacked onto bills at the last minute?
          • It doesn't. No earmark should get a free pass.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Etrias (1121031)
            Let me rephrase that since I read your comment again.

            You are right that bills should stand on their own in an ideal system. But we don't have an ideal system. My comment on defense is aimed toward the defense budget bills which are essentially a black box from the Pentagon which most Congressmen and Congresswomen rubber stamp because it makes them seem "unpatriotic" if they don't.

            Unfortunately, for science and the arts, the only funding they will get is through earmarks because "a bill on it's own"
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Tekfactory (937086)

          $6 Billion to paint Nose Art on a new stealth bomber
          $3 Billion for the arts and artists to paint it
          $3 billion to buy the "canvas" to paint it on

        • Spending for the arts shouldn't be tacked on a defense bill just like a new weapon shouldn't be tacked on to a arts bill.

          And why shouldn't spending on a new weapon system be included in a bill whose other provisions relate mostly to the arts?

          "X shouldn't be done just like Y shouldn't be done" isn't really useful without a clear reason why Y is undesirable.

    • by Dr_Ken (1163339) on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:50PM (#28931339) Journal
      Hmm...Not really. Earmarks for "other people" are what is unpopular. If the earmark is for "you" then it's cool no matter how outlandish a waste of money it is and screw what the NYT or CNN or Limbaugh think about it too, eh? That's the way it works where I live anyhow. I am represented by a freshman Dem [house.gov] who is representing a district that is 58% Rep and he thinks he can buy himself some goodwill, newspaper endorsements and popularity points by "bringing home the bacon". No amount of watch dogging for pork is gonna matter to him if the people in his district are happy about the new money flowing in.
      • by CraftyJack (1031736) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:55PM (#28932217)

        No amount of watch dogging for pork is gonna matter to him if the people in his district are happy about the new money flowing in.

        It's also worth noting that the people who will be doing this crowdsourced watch dogging will have agendas and biases of their own. The people of Michigan's 7th district probably won't take kindly to having their pork shot down by others who aren't finding the recession quite as painful. It will simply become more important to make your earmark sound good on paper (or at least avoid key search terms) to avoid drawing attention.

      • In other words, bread and circuses [wikipedia.org].

      • Every time this comes up I point to Lord Durham's report on the Dominion of Canada government after the abolition of Royal Prerogative (i.e., the presentation of any spending bill by the majority - Her Majesty's Government - and a straight up-or-down vote on it, with any amendments by the minority that pass triggering an election). He said that this abolition was extremely detrimental to the governance of the Dominion, as earmarks (known by a different name then) were proliferating through all spending bil
      • Earmarks are not in and of themselves evil. The problem with earmarks is that they are often obscure and hidden. So your congressman can vote for an earmark that gets one part of his constituency to donate heavily to his campaign, while keeping it hidden from the rest who would be after him with pitchforks if they knew about it.
        And that is the key to cleaning up government, making sure that his constituents know about the "little favors" he has done for people they would not approve of receiving government
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DoofusOfDeath (636671)

      contrary to popular opinion, the big difference between lobbyists and ordinary voters isn't money (although money matters), it is access to information on a timely basis. Putting information online will have a huge impact on the legislative process.

      One problem, though, is that there can be an insanely short time between when a bill comes out of committee, and when it's put up for a vote. One vile lesson that both Democrats and Republicans have learned is that members will vote on a bill (rather than abstain), even if they have only several hours to review thousands of pages.

      Unless this crowd-sourcing can review bills fast enough for even well-intentioned legislators to be aware of important reasons to vote 'no', I think it will do little good.

      Anyone

    • by Pollardito (781263) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:03PM (#28931493)
      All the information in the world won't help an ordinary voter that's not happy, unless he can talk to someone up there writing these laws that will listen. That's what the money is buying, access.

      You think that the pharmaceutical companies spent $40 million dollars lobbying the health care process [npr.org], because they had extra cash laying around? With that money they got exactly what they wanted out of the process, while average Joe Voter is probably not going to have the same success even with these tools.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chabil Ha' (875116)

      So instead of forcing people to dig through the proverbial hay stack, why not require legislators to file earmarks in an electronic format. This legislation would also void any earmarks that are not in compliance. This way the data can be mined instantaneously, the process made transparent, and make the process more informative to the government's constituents.

      In some perverted way, make the Bureaucracy go through a bureaucratic process to reveal their true colors.

      • So instead of forcing people to dig through the proverbial hay stack, why not require legislators to file earmarks in an electronic format. This legislation would also void any earmarks that are not in compliance.

        You really have no clue about how this stuff works, other than what you think you understand from sound bites, do you? One man's earmark is another's main-line legislation. Tell me what the difference is. If you pass something stupid like this, it will only assure that the earmarks are buried s

        • You really have no clue about how this stuff works

          Perhaps not, but I (and many Americans) know how it *should* work

    • While a good tool and no doubt legislators should already be doing this electronically.

      There is a strange ideology behind this whole 'transparency' movement.
      The ideology is basically this
      Money is best allocated by the democratic process and debate. The problem is we just need to provide accountability to the process and all will be well.

      The reality is much darker.
      This is like handing over your whole life to the student council. It wasn't a good idea in high school and it's not a good idea now.
      Not only is

      • by amplt1337 (707922)

        Speaking of the wisdom of crowds P Why not bypass the legislators directly and give the money directly to the people. If you trust crowds and democracy, why not trust each person individually with money?
        Why not have vouchers...?

        Because vouchers can't buy things like scientific research, waterfront levees, or cleaning up polluted water sources.

        Earmarks are a red herring, really a tiny fraction of our nation's expenditures. Many of them are stupid pet projects. Many of them are legitimate uses of money that could never be passed on a dedicated bill. Eliminating them would have minimal impact on the nation's budget, and definitely would not create the kind of minarchist paradise that people erroneously idealize.

    • contrary to popular opinion, the big difference between lobbyists and ordinary voters isn't money (although money matters), it is access to information on a timely basis.

      No, the two big differences are:
      1) Access to professional analysis on a timely basis, and
      2) Having legislators feel that you, as a single lobbyist, represent a coherent focussed interest that has the kind of influence that makes a difference in their electoral prospects (money is a part of this, but not the whole thing.)

      This project manage

    • by Threni (635302)

      Which information would have provided the majority of UK people who didn't want to go to war in Iraq with the tools to prevent/convince Blair's government from doing so? Governments know what they want to do - sometimes it coincides with the public's wishes, and sometimes those wishes have to be ignored. The idea that governments do what the people want is clearly laughable.

    • by mspohr (589790)
      It's not 'access to information'. Lobbyists write the bills for congress and then they pay congress to pass the bills. It really is all about the money. Ordinary voters don't have a chance to compete.

      Putting the information about this corrupt process online will help transparency by giving us more details but it shouldn't be a shock to anyone to see how the system works. It also won't stop the corruption. Congresscritters will not vote to cut of their own lobbyist funding.

  • other wise my generation will never help :-p
    so first on their dev's list...
    Iphone app... then
    facebook app... then
    myspace app... then

    wait what are they trying to do agian?
  • In Capitalist American Sunlight Foundation raise army of web volunteers to analyze government bills. In Soviet Russia Army volunteers YOU and government send YOU bill...
  • It's about time (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CorporateSuit (1319461) on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:38PM (#28931161)
    I was thinking that this would already be part of the government system -- to index who makes each earmark or revision to a bill -- to add at least some semblence of accountability to the legislating process. Then I thought "Why doesn't the government already have a searchable website like this? Shouldn't they be accountable to make one?" then I realized the website probably would have been contracted out for $8 million to some governor's grandson's company... So Go Volunteers!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Just putting all bills under revision control would be handy...
      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        so only $7 million to the reps grandson?

      • by giminy (94188)

        Not only that, but it would probably save money. I've often wondered what happens behind the scenes with bills...who writes the actual words? The politicians or their lawyers? And how do they deal with concurrency/locking issues (the potential money-saving part here for using some kind of RCS that can do merges nicely)?

  • At least they're going this far. Imagine this happening under the Bush office. Nope, I didn't think you could.

    P.S. I am *not* an Obama fanboi.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Actually, it *was* started under the Bush office. From the Sunlight Foundation website. The Sunlight Foundation was co-founded in 2006 by Washington, DC businessman and lawyer Michael Klein and longtime Washington public interest advocate Ellen Miller with the non-partisan mission of using the revolutionary power of the Internet to make information about Congress and the federal government more meaningfully accessible to citizens.
    • Oh. So apparently "The Sunlight Foundation" is another name for the government now?! I think that I missed the part where this was under any presidential office.

      Image this happening under the Obama office. Nope, I didn't think you could.

      P.S. I *am* a fanboi of keeping the money that I earned.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ArcherB (796902)

      At least they're going this far. Imagine this happening under the Bush office. Nope, I didn't think you could.

      P.S. I am *not* an Obama fanboi.

      Um... the Bush Office didn't write bills. That job falls solely under the Congressional branch of the US government. The "Bush Office" falls under the Executive Branch, just like every other president.

      People give the president too much credit/blame. All the president does is sign the bills. Congress writes them and sends them to the Prez. The Prez can either sign or veto.

      Please refer to the following educational video [youtube.com] for future reference. :-)

      • Actually, the president can also not sign bills. One thing that our previous president didn't do nearly as often as he ought to have.

  • Who Owns The Data? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Recruiting volunteers is nice, but who owns the data at the end of the day?

    Can I download a full offline copy of database? (Without having to sign an NDA, make payments, or resort to a custom rolled screen scraper?)

    Can I reuse the data on my own private or public projects?

    If not, then best of luck with your project 'fellas, lemme know how it works out.

    • by jank1887 (815982)

      wasn't there just a frontpage on another similar effort? WashingtonWatch.com offering a Kindle to the user with the most Appropriation entries to their app, tied to a google map. It's like linux distros, which one do I use and how do we avoid fracturing the support base

      • by jank1887 (815982)

        wait... now I'm confused. A July 10th blog entry [sunlightfoundation.com] on the Sunlight foundation website says:

        "Jim Harper, Webmaster at WashingtonWatch.com, can use our help this weekend... Sunlight has provided partial support for Jimâ(TM)s project...Just like Sunlightâ(TM)s Transparency Corp, Jim is asking for volunteers to make government transparency a reality."

        so... they're different, but they support each other. Are they sharing data?

  • <Jasper Beardly voice>You sunk my battleship!</Jasper Beardly voice>

    <old people's laughter>Hahahahaha!</old people's laughter>
  • I had a similar notion when concerns were circling about bills being too long to feasibly read before a representative voted on it, but it was for bills in general, not just earmarks.

    http://palshife.net/2009/02/27/government-in-the-eyes-of-a-technologist [palshife.net]

    Personally, I like the idea of doing earmarks specifically since it would go a long way toward showing just where the federal government's money goes.

  • by Anonymusing (1450747) on Monday August 03, 2009 @02:50PM (#28931335)

    If you put up free porn -- only requiring people to enter this information to advance to the next screen of free porn -- this database would be completed in 24 hours or less.

    Or, if not porn, then lottery tickets.

  • Am I the only one tired of hearing/seeing the word crowdsource?
    • by LoRdTAW (99712)

      NO.

      I had to read the title three times before that buzz word filled mess made any sense. There should be a law against buzz words.

  • by ForexCoder (1208982) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:18PM (#28931697)
    Earmarks account for only 1% to 2% of the budget. What is really needed is a wiki that encompasses the whole federal budget (all $2.9 trillion of it). Then the crowd would really have a chance of finding waste in the budget and of making some really progress in bringing spending into line with revenues.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Delwin (599872) *
    • by lukej (252598)
      Not quite what you are talking about... but the venerable Death & Taxes: http://www.wallstats.com/deathandtaxes/ [wallstats.com]
    • Earmarks make up about 1% of *discretionary* spending. Which is considerably smaller than the overall budget (which includes things like Medicare and Social Security). And if an earmark didn't exist, that doesn't mean the money wouldn't be spent. It just means that the person administering the program under which the earmark falls would be able to allocate that money more freely (presumably to a more efficient use than a senator's pet project).

      Earmarks are very easy for journalists to write up as news st

    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      Earmarks account for only 1% to 2% of the budget.

      Sure, but as bribes they have a very nonlinear effect on the rest of the budget. How many programs were voted into existence only because earmarks were used to bribe congressmen on the borderline?

  • Source isn't a verb. Crowdsource isn't a word. It's linguisticing clusterfuckery.

    Thinktank aims to take advantage of... to use.... *groan*.

    English ownership's so many precise and eloquent cloudwords there's littleish reason to recreation them or inventize more at.

    • Before I get off your lawn, let me leave you with these [merriam-webster.com] links [reference.com]. I've heard tell that languages, being intrinsically conventional, are allowed to develop new meanings for words, and sometimes even entirely new words. Of course, maybe languages weren't like that, in your day, so I can understand your anger-at-what-is-different/fear-of-the-unknown.
      • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

        by AP31R0N (723649)

        "Langwidges morfph get ust 2 it"?

        Merriam adds new words every year to drum up new sales, it's an advertising gimmick. Most dictionaries are descriptivist, meaning they add whatever the fuck for whatever reason. They list how words are USED, not just what they mean. The downside of this is some semi-educated twat will point to entry 5 for "source"... and people become just a little bit dumber. English becomes a little bit less expressive.

        Impact means collide, not change. Its meaning is independent of th

        • Dear Sir,

          I apologize for my apparently callous reply to your statement about using the word 'source' as a verb. I was not aware, at the time that I replied, that you had suffered so much abuse at the hands of words that had gained new meaning within the last hundred years. I now see that my understanding of language as a collection of conventions that can be expanded upon by people (even people with MBAs or marketers) is wholly anathema to your understanding of the sancrosanct character of the vocabulary
    • by hchaos (683337)
      "Verbification" is also a neologism, even though the activity that it describes has been occurring in the English language for several hundred years, so don't think you're going to stamp it out any time soon. Also, "source" has always been a verb, and it's use as a noun is probably the result of nounification some 500-700 years ago.
  • WikiConstitution
  • can we tag this with 'compoundword'?
  • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:49PM (#28932119) Homepage Journal

    One problem is how one defines "earmark" and "pork". The "reasonableness" if a given request is often subjective and depends on one's personal politics. For example, is the F-22 an "earmark"? Sure, some senators probably want it because of local jobs in existing F-22 plants, but others feel we need a large, aggressive military to protect us from [insert boogyman of the week]. Lists of numbers cannot really tell you what's behind a senator's decision. But at least hopefully an easy-to-get-to database will make it easier to find and highlight suspicious patterns.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by QuantumRiff (120817)

      I think the F22's that you are specifically mentioning are considered earmarks, because they direct a department (DOD) to purchase something that they did not specify that they wanted. They did not want the 7 F22's, and people are trying to force them to buy them.

      • by Tablizer (95088)

        direct a department (DOD) to purchase something that they did not specify that they wanted. They did not want the 7 F22's

        Some feel that DOD is being pumped full of "liberal wussies", and is thus not objective.

             

  • by SEWilco (27983) on Monday August 03, 2009 @03:55PM (#28932225) Journal
    "Senator, have you read this bill?"
  • I'm all for exposure to the public of this type of data, but, can we trust them not to filter the data to forward their own political agenda. I think not. Like every group in Washington, they will filter out the sins of the people whose views they support while exposing the sins of those whose views they oppose.

    Also, can we trust that the "Crowd" they attract to sift out this data will not be partisan in what they record. Again, I think not.

    I've been watching this crap play out for half a century and stu

    • by maxume (22995)

      Yeah, if only our system was designed to work without involving any people.

Any circuit design must contain at least one part which is obsolete, two parts which are unobtainable, and three parts which are still under development.

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