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The Almighty Buck Government United States

Are Shuttered Gov't Sites Actually Saving Money? 668

Posted by timothy
from the buy-this-magazine-or-we'll-shoot-this-dog dept.
Lots of U.S. government agencies' websites are partly or fully shut down, many of them with messages like this one, from the front page of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory: "Effective 7 p.m. EDT, Friday, 4 October 2013, the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) temporarily suspended all US operations because of the US Federal government shutdown. All NRAO facilities and buildings are closed; NRAO personnel, other than a skeleton crew, are on furlough and cannot respond to emails or phone calls." Brian Doherty argues at Reason that many of these shutterings don't actually seem to make any financial sense, and that the sites are down more as a public statement than out of fiscal prudence. If you're involved with running an organizational web site (government-funded or not), do you agree?
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Are Shuttered Gov't Sites Actually Saving Money?

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  • "Financial Sense" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Silentknyght (1042778) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @08:32AM (#45043581)

    Since when does the majority of the actions of the US Government make "financial sense"? This is about what is required, not what is saving money. I've heard from various news sources that the shutdown, itself, *costs* millions per day. By that logic, "financial sense" would have been to not shutdown in the first place.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 05, 2013 @08:38AM (#45043629)

      Many of these actions are clearly not "required". Park facilities that don't normally have round-the-clock security are now being patrolled and guarded by park rangers who have been told to keep everyone out. The logic doesn't make sense because these are facilities that don't have any services being discontinued that would necessitate a total closure of the lands and monuments during a government shutdown. It is purely punitive action designed to make regular people suffer in the hopes they whine to their congressman about the budget negotiations.

      • Re:"Financial Sense" (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 05, 2013 @08:56AM (#45043747)

        The issue is not what costs more or less money. The government has money. What the government doesn't have is the authorization from congress to spend it. It doesn't matter that the normal funds for running the park cost less than the park rangers. The rangers are authorized and running the park is not. The way our system works is that no money can be spent without a formal authorization from congress and right now we don't have that. They passed a law a while back to continue funding "essential" services during this time but we don't get to pick and choose based on what makes financial sense.

        This is the downside of having a government of laws not men. Without the law we can't do anything even if common sense says it should be so. Want common sense, Congress needs to pass a law.

        • by Entrope (68843) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:01AM (#45043789) Homepage

          If the executive isn't authorized to spend money, which is better: To post signs saying "This facility is closed and unstaffed", or to deploy armed guards in order to keep people away from open-air facilities that are usually unstaffed and unsupervised?

          • by wstrucke (876891) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:13AM (#45043897)
            That, and the fact that it is *public land*. The people do not report to the government, the government reports to the people. If it's not being funded there should be no authority to "close" publicly owned resources.
            • Re:"Financial Sense" (Score:5, Informative)

              by funwithBSD (245349) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:36AM (#45044067)

              Yes, we are no longer citizens, but subjects who may or may not go on our land at the whim of the those who rule by our consent.

              At least, that is the way it is supposed to work. Our land, our public servants, not the other way round.

              • by schnell (163007) <meNO@SPAMschnell.net> on Saturday October 05, 2013 @07:36PM (#45048003) Homepage

                Yes, we are no longer citizens, but subjects who may or may not go on our land at the whim of the those who rule by our consent.

                Huh? OK, I'm not allowed to go into a national park while there are no federal employees to keep me safe or respond to problems. I'm also not allowed to build a burger stand or an oil well in the middle of a national park either. Neither of these things makes it any less "my" land. Part of the whole point of a national park is that not just any jackass can do anything they want with it even though it's "their" land - it is held in trust for us all by the government.

            • Re:"Financial Sense" (Score:5, Informative)

              by fortfive (1582005) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @10:41AM (#45044549)

              Government owned lands are not public in the sense you suggest. They are a public "trust," which means the government holds the lands in trust for the benefit of the public (theoretically). This is to distinguish us from England, where the lands are owned by the crown, and has no legal incentive to provide any benefit from the lands to the public.

              Just like other trust funds, the trustee controls and decides what produces the highest benefit, and is largely free to do just about anything, even screw it up, so long us the trust is managed in good faith.

              I make no statement on the usefulness or fairness of this legal construction, I am merely pointing out how it works.

              • by gsnedders (928327)

                In the UK, the land is owned by the Crown, but it is not their private property and they have no control over it. The Crown Estate manage the land, and any surplus revenue goes to HM Treasury (essentially, the finance/economy department of government), with 15% of the net revenue going to the monarch (this is essentially the income they get to carry out their duties as head of state). The Crown Estate is ultimately accountable to Parliament, and an annual report is submitted to both the Monarch and Parliame

              • by timeOday (582209) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:27PM (#45045363)
                I would point out that, outside of Alaska, the US has 6 times [pbs.org] as much land in national forests as national parks. The national forests (and BLM land) are more like what the grandparent post imagines - you generally don't pay to enter, dispersed camping at random places is allowed, and they are not closed during a shutdown. National Parks are something else - they are singular and irreplaceable natural treasures, which at the same time draw much more visitation (and thus damage). As such it makes sense to more actively protect them.
              • by Teancum (67324)

                On the contrary, these lands are indeed "public property" as in commonly owned by all of the American people jointly. I can't say how that is done in other countries, but it is not a "public trust" as you are implying. Federal lands are those places to which were simply left over after everything else was claimed. In many cases it is land that is so utterly worthless (or was seen as worthless when stuff like the Homestead Act was in place) that nobody wanted that land. Yes, there are certain exceptions

        • You initially say (correctly) that the shutdown is about not spending money, but later slyly morph that into not being allowed to "run" facilities, and characterize failure to block access as "running", so as to prove that blocking access is required by the shutdown. Sorry, but sitting back and doing nothing is less aptly called "running" than is spending extra money to prevent access. And the additional spending clearly violates your original definition of a shutdown.

      • Re:"Financial Sense" (Score:5, Informative)

        by jelle (14827) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:32PM (#45045419) Homepage

        IANAL, nor a politician, but IMHO the furloughs are not about saving money.

        They are a result of the federal government not having authorization to spend any money.

        It's like a company in bankruptcy proceedings, the curator takes over and protects the assets while working to get the best outcome for the creditors.

        "these are facilities that don't have any services being discontinued"

        If that were true, nobody would be unhappy with their closure, and those places wouldn't be a very safe place to be even before the government shutdown (no maintained roads and trails, no and safety equipment, no animal control/fire/law enforcement/first aid service, etc).

        What it's about is both preventing damage to assets and preventing spending of any money not deemed absolutely essential, which they have been instructed to do from the top down.

        If a website needs a security update for a zero-day exploit, or gets hacked or vandalized during the furlough, the IT guys are not allowed to do anything about it because they are on furlough. They are not deemed essential employees and therefore they can not do work, any work, including volunteering to support the website (nothing they can do about that, in fact they can get in trouble for breaking those rules). We should be lucky that there is a webpage with a notice: They could have simply powered the machines (cloud, whatnot) off. What if the air conditioning turns off and the server room overheats, or there is some kind of water leak in the room, damaging the running server(s)? If I was responsible for an Internet-exposed website, and I was instructed to protect the assets with only absolutely essential expenditures, and I would be guaranteed not to be able to do anything for it for an indefinite amount of time and there was nobody willing and able to take on the responsibility during my absence, I would shut it down too, to prevent being faulted for anything happening to it in my absence.

        If inside a national park an accident or crime happens that needs for example a road closure, a rescue, a fire department t respond, or an arrest (for example, for damaging public property, public intoxication, etc), then the government can't help and can't control the damage because there is no authorization to spend any money to pay for the work and materials of the rescue, fire control, etc. So the best way to prevent damage in the park is to completely close access to it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by craigminah (1885846)
      The shutdown makes little fiscal sense, especially when you consider that those employees furloughed will most likely receive back pay.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Shavano (2541114)

        Furloughed employees will not receive back pay. They are ordered not to work and can't legally do so. Employees deemed essential must work, but they won't be paid until Congress authorizes the funds.

  • by KiloByte (825081) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @08:38AM (#45043619)

    that the sites are down more as a public statement than out of fiscal prudence

    You mean, the populist faction of the Neocon Corporate Party could possibly do something just to put the public blame on the authoritarian faction? That cannot be!

    • that the sites are down more as a public statement than out of fiscal prudence

      You mean, the populist faction of the Neocon Corporate Party could possibly do something just to put the public blame on the authoritarian faction? That cannot be!

      You got an alternative?

      My problem with third parties is not with the idea in principle. When I interned in Canada's Parliament I was with the NDP, which was at the time fourth. My problem is that they consist mostly of people who have no idea how the American system of government actually functions. Jason Amash and Dennis Kucinich do not exist in Canada because their party leaders would simply refuse to sign their nomination papers, and their Riding Associations would be forced to re-run the Caucus that nom

    • that the sites are down more as a public statement than out of fiscal prudence

      You mean, the populist faction of the Neocon Corporate Party could possibly do something just to put the public blame on the authoritarian faction? That cannot be!

      Well... The Neocon Corporate Party favors a smaller government without all these "non-essential" programs and services. Parks and monuments - part of, built and/or maintained by the government - are technically non-essential, so closing them gives us all a chance to see what the smaller government envisioned would look like...

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @08:39AM (#45043631)
    but either way shutting the gov't sites is a great way to remind people that gov't does things they want done. For the last 20 or 30 years we've been hammered with a 'Gov't is Evil' message. Never mind that it was the Federal Gov't that did away with Child Labor, Slavery and Segregation, created Superfund sites for cleanup of the messes made by private business and made them stop poisoning ground water.

    With all the small gov't Tea Party blather out there it's nice for Americans to be reminded that gov't is a tool, and one they depend on. I for one don't want to see EPA regulation, anti-slavery and usury laws, OSHA Safety and FDA regulations go away.
    • by oag2 (2854559)
      I think at this short time-scale it will remind those who use government services (e.g., WIP) a lot that government matters (which we can assume they knew already), but others who benefit less directly will probably feel little to no change, at least in the short term. I can't say the shutdown has any noticeable impact on my day-to-day existence, except that I feel angry thinking about it. While I'm with you that government is important, I frankly don't want to wait until we start noticing the effects of, s
      • by Shavano (2541114)

        I heard the FDA had already stopped food safety inspections on imported food. But I think there is no way to verify that because the people you'd have to contact to tell you about it are furloughed :(

    • by LordLucless (582312) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @08:57AM (#45043751)

      but either way shutting the gov't sites is a great way to remind people that gov't does things they want done.

      Uh-huh. Nice monument there. It would be a shame if someone barricaded it off. The shutdown is revealing government's true nature - a bunch of petty extortionists. Give us money, or we'll shut down things that you like. Not because we can't afford it - it will actually cost us money - but because we can.

      • by gtall (79522)

        Bullshit. It is written into the law which parts of government get shutdown when a budget isn't passed.

        And no government cannot afford it, they don't have authority by law to spend what they have, and they will blow through the debt ceiling in 2 weeks.

        Yes, it will cost America money, but it won't cost the government money (the shutdown, that is). At least initially, it won't cost them money. It will cost them to restart the government.

        And the first bozo to get injured in a Fed. park during the government sh

    • by stms (1132653)

      With all the small gov't Tea Party blather out there it's nice for Americans to be reminded that gov't is a tool, and one they depend on. I for one don't want to see EPA regulation, anti-slavery and usury laws, OSHA Safety and FDA regulations go away.

      Maybe if the shutdown goes on long enough people will start to miss government. But I doubt in the short term that a small number of websites used by a small number of people is going to have any impact on how people view government. In fact the more people will probably think something like "the government shut down and everything is just fine why do we need so much government".

    • Don't forget that it was the federal government that codified slavery and segregation in the first place.

      • Good thing no once decided that it could not be changed... unlike the sacred ACA.

      • by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @11:08AM (#45044725)

        BS. Complete and utter twaddle.

        Slavery was codified by the States before there was a Federal government. Virginia, in particular, took a leading role in creating the rules that allowed slavery. Under English law there were no slaves, just Serfs, and Serfdom was a) incredibly rare, and b) a lot nicer then slavery. Under slavery you could get home from a hard days work and discover your toddler was on a boat to New Orleans to cover Mas'r's gambling debts. Under serfdom both you and your toddler were tied to a specific Estate, which meant neither could be forcibly moved out of town.

        Segregation was never codified under any Federal statute. The Military was segregated, which meant lots of military regulations were racist, but Segregation as a policy was created by the states and enforced by the states.

    • The same government that did all those good things also monitors everything you do on the internet and tracks all of your cellphone calls. Plus as an added bonus, it nearly randomly bombs people in countries we are not at war (or even kinetic action) with.

      Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Don't believe me? Compare Senator Obama's statements to Emperor Obama's statements. He quickly learned from Bush that an imperial administration is aided by being at war.

    • by thoth (7907) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:37AM (#45044077) Journal

      Exactly! Without the Federal Government, we wouldn't have a national highway system, NASA and space technology (GPS satellites...), the Internet, nuclear power/energy (and weapons...), etc. not to mention some protection against corporations externalizing all their pollution somewhere else, and considering the occasional mass poisoning a business/PR expense.

      Republicans were already posing on day one of the shutdown, at War Memorials in DC, feigning shock that a shutdown actually shut stuff down.

  • Sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by protactin (206817) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @08:40AM (#45043637) Homepage

    I imagine it costs less to defend against and clean up after DDoS or XSS attacks on a static page, than it does against an active web site.

    • Re:Sure (Score:5, Informative)

      by msauve (701917) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @08:48AM (#45043695)
      It costs even less if you simply turn the server off.
      • And for a lot of these sites, I'd bet the server is already turned off and the DNS redirected to a server hosting only static pages.
      • correct Astronomy Photo Of The Day (APOD) is completely dead...
    • Re:Sure (Score:5, Informative)

      by fermion (181285) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @10:24AM (#45044389) Homepage Journal
      Exactly. That such a politically motivated question is asked on /. shows the lack of technical expertise of too many, which is surprised for a site such as /.

      Any infrastructure requires maintainace. Maybe not daily, but certainly periodic. Anyone who runs a website knows that they can't be left on autopilot for a month. Given that this shutdown is open ended, it simply makes more sense to turn things off that do not have funding rather than come back in later, when people are not being paid, and do a controlled shutdown.

      There is also the issue of security. It would be a great idea to leave all the infrastructure open when all these disgruntled employes who were laid off with almost no notice have nothing better to do than play hacker. So many private firms have had so much success allowing access to their computers to laid off employees.

      As far as national parks go, there may not be fully staffed, but there is a probably a park ranger to help with issues Most people do expect services. It is better to close the park than to have to recall some laid off employee in an emergency. Which is what is happening now in louisinan/alabama/missisipi/florida. You would think these sates who are so supportive of the shutdown would support themselves.

      That said, there would be ways to turn on more services. Congress could pass the bill that guarantees federal employess back pay. It is there and it only requires the House to agree. The congress could also vote to open all public facing agencies with a skeleton staff. This would amount to giving some a paid vacation while others would have to work, but there we go. We could open websites and state parks and the memorials.

  • No (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LordLucless (582312) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @08:43AM (#45043661)

    Does anyone really believe the facilities they shut down are due to lack of funds?

    All the actually expensive stuff is "essential", and they keep paying for it. Instead, they pay people to barricade off open-air monuments, and to add modify websites to become non-functional; they pay rangers to stop people from "recreating" in national parks. It's fairly obvious that the shutdown is just Washington Monument Syndrome writ large.

    • Food stamps run out in three weeks. Medicaid in DC has been shut down. Most military contractors aren't being paid, even if they're delivering goods. Social Security and Medicare are fine, but that's because they have their own budget not because they've been "deemed essential." So of the top three expense of the government one has been severely curtailed (Defense), Health has been affected (if only in DC), and Social Security alone remains unaffected. Lesser bills (like those pesky food stamps) have varyin

  • Missing the point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TrumpetPower! (190615) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Saturday October 05, 2013 @08:47AM (#45043685) Homepage

    It's very, very expensive to move out of your home and then back in again, even to the same home. But if you don't -- for whatever reason -- have the money to pay the rent, that may well be your only choice.

    If you're expecting to have the money but your boss's accounting department is simply incompetent, you might be able to plead with your landlord. Or maybe not.

    But whether staying at home or moving out is cheaper is irrelevant to the question when the rent check comes due.

    That money is being wasted isn't the fault of the agencies that are shutting down. It's the fault of the Republicans who're holding the entire country hostage in a blatantly un-Constitutional attempt to repeal majority-supported legislation. They've tried dozens of times to repeal the legislation through the normal legislative process and failed miserably each time; now, they're determined to wreck the national economy (with the shutdown) and possibly even the global economy (with the default) if the majority doesn't give in to their demands. They've shot multiple prisoners already (don't forget the ongoing sequester!) and are now threatening to blow up the whole building.

    In a modern democracy, their actions would long ago have resulted in the dissolution of the government and a new round of elections. And the Obama administration's support for the NSA wiretapping would also have triggered elections. Such a shame we live in a place that's rested so much on its laurels and is now so far behind the times.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Re:Missing the point (Score:4, Informative)

      by tylikcat (1578365) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:07AM (#45043847)

      Though if we're going to be precise, it's not just "the Republicans" but factionalism and the Speaker's inability to command respect from members of his own party. (This isn't a particularly partisan statement - or at least, observers from both the left and right have reached the same conclusion.)

  • by dak664 (1992350) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @08:49AM (#45043707) Journal

    And now Congress is considering legislation to assure that furloughed workers get back pay for the vacation.
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/10/04/obama-backs-backpay-furlough-shutdown/2923221/ [usatoday.com]

  • The real loss is in having to work *around* the government shut down. I have logistics work out of the country that has >2x the cost of my stay because I've had to pick up the slack of other, more qualified workers.
    Not complaining about where I am (I like the travel), just pointing out that the reimbursement for my work and the logistics I've had to line up as a contractor, in my case, have far exceeded the cost of keeping the people who are responsible and proficient at this work on for another few da
  • by nimbius (983462) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:01AM (#45043791) Homepage

    speaking as a hosting engineer, the sites youre seeing are in 'static maintenance' meaning the original content is replaced with a banner. since each site has a banner page for a shutdown, for example usda.gov, its feasible to presume the shutdown sites were created ahead of time and are all hosted on one or two machines at government facilities that have not been shut down.

    static maintenance pages arent saving cash in the form of hosting costs or electricity but they do mean your normal 'staff' of engineers and content creators for the sites can be sent home safely. you dont need to worry about content expiring, which if your the USDA or the FCC thats a good thing because you dont end up misleading people inadvertantly about advisories or notices because no one was around to remove expired content.

    now, once the crisis ends and everyone goes back to work, im certain lifting the 'shutdown' banners and playing catchup with a few weeks of missed content and data is going to cost money. congressional staff are likely to begin filing their helpdesk tickets in a 'zerg rush' fashion, so anticipate their cost centers to accrue more charges than usual ( as a government IT worker, you often assign every minute of time to a department.) any unforseen outages or problems caused by say, two weeks of database updates or transactions, might be problematic and require more engineering time than had we not shut down the government. also for the static maintenance team (those guys in charge of the banner only) you'll need to start sending them backpay for their ongoing work and overtime for their miserable on-call rotations.

    TL;DR: shutting down the government does not save money in the long term or short term in any appreciable amount.

  • by sribe (304414) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:03AM (#45043807)

    Well, duh, it costs them basically no money to leave a web server running as long as the web server has no failures and is not attacked. But do you want a government server up and running when you know that there will be no one available to deal with any problems that may come up???

  • This has nothing to do with saving money and everything to do with spending money. This is a very important distinction as there is an old law that strictly prohibits spending money during a shutdown. If you spend money on something that isn't a critical you risk serious legal consequences. I am not defending the shutdown or either party.

    That being said shutdowns do end up costing more money than they save by the time they ramp things back up. Minnesota had a shutdown a while back where the government shut down over a similar stubborn argument. The shutdown ended up costing millions of dollars more than it saved because it caused massive delays in road construction projects and the like. The construction companies (and others) sued for costing them money and the state paid out a hell of a lot of money.

  • The funding for NRAO comes from the National Science Foundation, which is funded by the federal government. When an appropriations bill was not passed, NSF did not get any money, so they could not give any money to NRAO to continue operating. The National Science Foundation could not authorize NRAO to continue operating without funding. So, in short, this isn't being done to save money, it's being done because there is no money.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:08AM (#45043853) Homepage

    Longer answers as to why:
    1. As someone else mentioned, a simple static page is a lot less vulnerable to attack or disruption than a functional page.
    2. Bandwidth costs are lower, since all you have are people hitting the site, seeing the shuttering, and going away again, rather than actually using it.
    3. Anything behind the front page, such as databases, can and probably are shut down completely, saving on power and bandwidth.
    4. Information provided on sites that aren't updated is likely to be inaccurate, which is worse than no information at all.
    5. The cost to shutting them down can't have been all that high, since here's the process: (1) Have a developer make a static "We're not open for business" page, (2) have your admins configure front-end webservers with a mod_rewrite (or equivalent) to direct all traffic to that page, (3) shut down anything that's not a front-end webserver. Yes, it wasn't free, but my guess is whoever is coming up with the costs is factoring in paying the tech staff they already had on salary to do the work.

    Basically, what I'm seeing is people who advocated shutting down the entire federal government as a complete waste of money are now going "Wait, I didn't mean that, or that, or that other thing." It's sort of like the reaction if you are told to remove everything from a messy room and start throwing absolutely everything out.

  • http://www.examiner.com/article/park-ranger-admits-being-told-to-make-life-as-difficult-for-people-as-possible [examiner.com]

    A federal Park Service Ranger admitted being ordered to make life as difficult as possible in order to make Americans feel the most pain as a result of the partial government shutdown ... Same happened at the beginning of the sequester..

  • by umafuckit (2980809) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:30AM (#45044023)
    I'm a scientist and there's a conference going on right now at my institute. Researchers have already paid for everything in advance (weeks/months ago): meeting fees, food, accommodation. The total comes to around $2k. However, researchers from the NIH institute have been told that they can't attend because of the shutdown. Clearly this isn't about cost savings. One researcher was apparently planning on visiting relatives in the area after the meeting and asked if they could just go and do that instead (on their own dime) and they were told "no" and that it would be "bad if we found out that you went". So there you go. Makes little or no sense to me. Frankly, I find cordoning off memorials in DC to be similarly silly.
  • Well duh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! (33014) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:33AM (#45044051) Homepage Journal

    They've furloughed IRS employees. Does *that* make financial sense? They've shut down FDA food inspection. Does *that* make financial sense, if we count the cost to the nation of food borne illness? This shutdown is about many things, but "financial sense" is not one of them.

    We live in a country full of idiots who say things like "Keep the government out of my Medicare," without realizing that Medicare *is* a government program. Many more understand that things like the military or NIH cancer research are part of the gummint, but only on an intellectual level. On a visceral level they only associate the government with things they don't like, such as pollution regulation. The stuff they *do* like apparently just happens, as far as they're concerned.

    So put yourself in the shoes of the zookeeper who has to take care of the pandas as the National Zoo. Pandas don't stop eating or shitting because Speaker of the House doesn't have the balls to bring a clean continuing resolution bill to the floor. So you've still got to show up to feed them and muck out their enclosure, only now you're not being paid. Your landlord still wants paying; the grocery store still wants paying, the daycare center you leave your kids at so you can go to this job still wants paying, but *you* don't get paid.

    Wouldn't *you* pull the plug on the panda-cam? If you *don't*, people *will* say, "look, we shut the government down but things are still working." Yes they *are* that stupid. So you pull the plug so they'll understand that things like the pandas being cared for just don't "happen" on their own. Sure, people get pissed off, but they're not paying for the panda cam so they can lump it. Not seeing Mei Xiang and her cub isn't going to kill anyone. They weren't paying for panda cam anyway; that was paid for with a grant from corporate sponsorship, so if anyone has a beef with this, it'd be Ford Motor Company.

  • by mbone (558574) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @09:38AM (#45044083)

    The willful stupidity here is incredibly massive, and I have no sympathy at all for those propagating it.

    What part of "shutdown" do the tea party types not understand? The Government operates at the pleasure of the Congress, as expressed in the yearly budget. If the Government has no budget, it cannot operate (except for a few pieces that run on fees or other direct income). Whether it makes financial sense to close any particular part in the absence of a budget is irrelevant.

    There is this fiction, that everyone agrees to accept, that there are "essential" parts that have to keep going, such as much of the DOD, but, really, those should be shut too. What is essential is set by each agency well in advance of any shutdown; if the Congress does not like any particular agency's policy, in this or any other matter, they can and should hold hearings about it. What is of course really going on here is a fairly pathetic attempt to deflect the proper blame by bleating about parking lots being closed and other irrelevancies, when a simple open vote in the House would fix this within a single afternoon.

  • by David Gerard (12369) <slashdotNO@SPAMdavidgerard.co.uk> on Saturday October 05, 2013 @10:01AM (#45044221) Homepage

    If the sysadmins have to go home, then hell yes, shuttering the sites is absolutely the right thing to do.

  • by Gravis Zero (934156) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @10:19AM (#45044339)

    this stupid stunt that politicians pulling by shutting down the federal government is foolish at best.

    when can we hold elections to replace those that have caused this shutdown?

  • by oneiros27 (46144) on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:16PM (#45045275) Homepage

    In the planning two years ago, we were told that the reason for shutting off servers was that we coudn't patch them while we were out ... and if they got hacked, we weren't allowed to go and fix them (or monitor to discover it happened) ... so it'd potentially leave someone with access during the length of the shutdown.

    The resulting cleanup would be horrible for everyone involved, depending on the agency's security policies. (our are a wipe, and reinstall the OS from original media (which is much trickier these days due to how software gets distributed) ... then reinstall the software (can't simply install from a previous image).)

    In my opinion, leaving servers on with a message is an absolutely horrible thing to do. GSA gave out bad advice in my opinion, as it's going to start getting cached by search engines the way they told people to do it. (302 redirections, not serve a 503 message).

    And they just gave people a PNG to include ... which if people put it up directly without re-copying it all in alt-text, is a section 508 violation.

    They *should* have done this with a static server per agency (or network), and some rules at the firewalls to redirect all port 80 traffic to it, other than those who had exemptions to keep running for whatever reason.

  • This is the end... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['rbo' in gap]> on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:25PM (#45045343) Homepage

    What people haven't noticed is the total votes and how Boehner's behavior wouldn't make sense in a functioning political party.

    Here are, roughly, the totals:
    A) About 30-40 Republicans want a shutdown for some undefined reason.
    B) About 150 Republicans do not want a shutdown, but will take whatever position Boehner takes, and will not be rebels.
    C ) About 20 Republicans assert they will be rebels to stop the shutdown.

    Now, look carefully at that. Remember the 'Hastert Rule', which was a way to enforce party discipline? Where bills only got to the floor the majority of Republicans liked them? Notice anything wrong here?

    The vast majority, groups B and C, of Republicans want to fund the government. They would have voted for a CR at any point if Boehner had put it forward. (In fact, we'd probably had a little fight over the House wanting to continue the sequester and thus some Democrats would vote against it, but that's in an alternate universe where this isn't going on.) I mean, now there might be problems getting it to pass, now that some B-group Republicans have stuck their necks out trying to follow the party-line, but all Boehner had to do was put it up for a vote three weeks ago, tada, it passes, and we continue onward.

    And it's not like Boehner was in group A. He's a perfectly reasonable person. There was no reason, in a functioning political party, for him not to put that bill forward. So why didn't it happen?

    Because the Republican party is completely and utterly broken.

    I don't mean broken in the sense of a 'pushing policies no one likes', although that is possibly true. It is broken because, thanks to gerrymandering, a large portion of this country has competing _Republican_ races, and that's it.

    And that gerrymandering seemed liked a clever plan back when it was set up, but this is what we get. A party in a civil war, and Boehner picked the side with the biggest guns. (Although the least amount of people.)

    Now, admittedly, there's not actually a way out of this. Republicans have to gerrymander like that. Without that, they wouldn't even control the House! So they're not going to stop that.

    Basically, folks, this is how a political party fails. How it unravels.

    In fact, there have been signs of that for a while. The Hastert Rule is something only a weak party would need to start with. The Republicans going full-bore anti-ACA instead of saying 'Hey, you finally agreed to _our_ health care plan.' All the incredibly weird bullshit getting spewed by the right.

    • by DavidTC (10147) <slas45dxsvadiv.v ... m ['rbo' in gap]> on Saturday October 05, 2013 @12:54PM (#45045595) Homepage

      And as for how this happened?

      Well, it was a series of mistake the Republicans made over the decades. Mistakes that made it harder and harder for the Republicans to shift their positions, and harder and harder to attract new people.

      And demographics continued to happen. And then they elected George W. Bush, which sped things up by about half a decade. And it because clear, about 2000 or so, they'd either have to shift their positions or cheat.

      They couldn't shift their positions. (In fact, the one policy failure of the Bush administration was the attempt to shift positions on immigration.) Their position had calcified. They had let too many people in their party based on attacking those societal shifts, and couldn't change those things now.

      So...they 'cheated'. (Note I'm not saying there was any lawbreaking. I mean cheating in the sense of not playing by commonly accepted rules.)

      1) They rigged things so that they'd stay in power with less and less people, via gerrymandering. (They've sorta been doing this for a while, but 2000 is where it took off.)
      2) They started inventing completely amazing attacks on Democrats. The much-vaulted 'civility' completely disappeared at the hands of the Republicans. (This arguable started under Clinton.)

      But this backfired horribly. Either of those alone might have been okay, but when you put them together, when you create Republican-safe districts and Republicans and Fox News yammers on and on about how evil anything to do with the Democrats are...

      ...you're going to end up getting challenges from the right.

      And thus the Tea Party was born. In 2009, just in time to get elected to local government for the census, for more redistricting, making each district even more extreme.

      The problem is...these victories just made the Republican's problems worse. Now they were even more extreme and had more of a problem. So, to keep power, we see stuff like reducing access to the ballot box, and nonsense like that.

      And now you get a government shutdown to try to appease the extremists. Which will, of course, just makes things even worse electorally. To remain viable, the party must moderate itself, and it cannot moderate itself thanks to the system it set up to stay in power.

      People think political parties die because they're no longer 'relevant'. But that's not really it. A political party die because instead of choosing to stay relevant, it tries (And succeeds for a short time) to rig the game to stay in power while continuing to be irrelevant, so it keep attracting less and less relevant people. Until the entire thing implodes.

      The fact is...the Republican party is dead. It's thrashing around and can do massive harm as it goes down, but it really has no exit from where it is. I'm not entirely sure whether what's going on right now are the final death throes, but at this point, it's going to see its power reduced at basically every election. (Remember, it didn't even win a majority of votes cast for the House.)

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