Friday, March 18, 2011

If you can't Google it, it doesn't exist, Chapter MMXI

There's a mildly interesting post over on Threat Level, hyping "10 Ways the Government is Opaque."

Some of them are going to be never-ending battles over transparency versus the government's (at times) legitimate claim that it has to be able to do a little business without having to deal with an endless stream of fauxtrage junkies looking to make their cable teevee bones by playing gotcha over some inanity. And make no mistake: some of them are righteous criticisms. But the ones on the list that just kill me, because I am a nerd, are the ones about information that has already been mandated by law to be made public, and so the way the law is "complied" with is?

Head, meet desk:

• U.S. senators do not file campaign contributions electronically, because they are not required to. Their reports are printed and mailed to the Secretary of the Senate where they are scanned into nonsearchable images and e-mailed to the Federal Elections Commission. The FEC posts the images on its site and snail-mails the data to a government contractor, which manually inputs the data into a searchable database …

Shouty voice added.

Somewhere on these Internets, Don McArthur is snickering at me. Nonetheless, I will persist in my perhaps unrealistic optimism on this front, and insist that it is not ALL politicians trying to hide stuff, but is in some cases just pure bureaucratic boneheadedness -- they've got a process in place that complies with the law, and that's the easiest thing to just keep on doing.

I grant that when it comes to Senators' munnies, this optimism is exceedingly unwarranted. But I doubt this scan, post-as-image, retype the data process is unique to this aspect making public information "accessible" to the public.

Hey, all you Republicans who want to make the government More Efficient™ and Run More Like A Business™: who's with me?