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Friday, January 22, 2010

Blog Heaven: Obama Admin Releases Huge Database to Public

You want government transparency? President Obama's got your transparency right here, with a huge upload of public data to the Web:

The Transportation Department will post ratings for 2,400 lines of tires for consumer safety based on tire tread wear, traction performance and temperature resistance. The Labor Department will release the names of 80,000 workplaces where injuries and illness have occurred over the past 10 years.

The Medicare database has previously been available for a fee of $100 on CD ROM. Under the Obama initiative, it can be downloaded free, providing detailed breakdowns of payments for Medicare services. The Medicare data will be sortable by the type of medical service provided.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database rates car seats for ease of use, evaluating the simplicity of instruction sheets, labels, vehicle installation features and securing the child.

"We're democratizing data," White House Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra said Thursday in an interview [Pete Yost, "Government Posting Wealth of Data to Internet," AP via Miami Herald, 2010.01.22].

The Medicare database—once $100, now free, and in Excel and Google-Maps-ready format (well, only csv/txt for now, but they're working on it)! And the LAIC wanted $250 for its measly one-binder housing study? Take a transparency memo, Dwaine!

The Obama Administration still has a long way to go on improving government openness (expect the comment section to fill with the right's favorite talking points). But making these gobs of government data so freely available is a huge step forward. Full and easy access to government data is a necessary step toward full and easy participation in government.

Update 2010.01.28: But the President still needs to crack some skulls down through the bureaucracy. His people are still fighting more FOIA lawsuits than his predecessor did.


  1. Steve Sibson1/22/2010 6:21 PM


    When is Obama going to release the deals he made with General Electric and Goldman Sachs?

  2. Cory, nobody gives a hoot about all these documents that mean little to even less. That's not transparency. It is like Madison's city-wide clean up where you put your junk out by the curb and others grab what they think they need before it is hauled away.

    Show me transparancy in the same bipartisan effort Obama promised during the campaign. He gave his word. Let's see the Healthcare effort debated and negotiated on CSPAN as Obama promised, not behind closed doors with no opposition. Ask Obama to open up the documents signed by Wall Street, banking and auto industry giants who received all our borrowed tax dollars, of which we'll receive very little paid back.

    Let's see a transparent accurate final report on the Cash for Clunkers program, its successes and failures. How about President Obama taking a stand against partisan leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, watching his own speeches and reconfirming all those "Changes" we were supposed to believe in just prior to November of 2008.

    This guy has an opportunity to be a world leader, but he's not Presidential in any way, shape or form. The man needs to learn that keeping his word is how he will be measured, not just with empty speeches.

  3. O.K., Rod, you got to score some anti-Obama points. But now let's look at the real world, our world. You and I both give a hoot about documents. Data means a lot. Imagine if the LAIC would make public the data public dollars have helped pay for. Imagine if we could look at and use the housing study, the focus group data, the marketing studies, receipts, and whatever other data they have in the file cabinet. We'd be thrilled!

    Cash for Clunkers? The government released that data, and AP reporters were able to put together a pretty thorough assessment that found less than stellar performance.

    I stand by my point: Mere data and primary documents are enormously important to transparency and citizen participation.

  4. Cory,

    I agree with you! I look forward to going through all this data and documentation. Oh man, am I excited! Can you help me sort through this mountain of data and documents? Aye r a slo reeder...

    I am looking for the following items:

    1. Occidental College records
    2. Columbia College records
    3. Columbia Thesis paper
    4. Harvard College records
    5. Selective Service Registration
    6. Medical records
    7. His Illinois State Senate schedule
    8. His Illinois State Senate records
    9. Law practice client list
    10. Certified Copy of original Birth certificate
    11. Embossed, signed, paper Certification of Live Birth
    12. Record of his baptism
    13. Paperwork stating why Michelle can no longer practice law as an attorney?
    14. Documentation demonstrating the need for Michelle's 22 assistants, when most other First Ladies had only one?
    15. Why President Obama got "foreign student aid" as a college student?
    16. Which country's "passport" did he have when he visited Pakistan in 1981?
    17. Articles he published as editor of the Harvard Law Review, or as a Professor at the University of Chicago
    18. Video footage of the healthcare committee meetings where Sen. Landrieu and Sen. Nelson were bribed.
    19. Paperwork outlining the details of the AIG bailout. (Sorry, I forgot, those are sealed until 2018. Why?)

    Thak yu so much fer helpin this ideeit hoo klings to my bibble n my gunz! Fer I undastaand thet my kwestchuns r not importunt to mozt of the meedea bekuz aye um just a dum t-bagga.

    Jason Bjorklund

    I will buy you a DQ Blizzard if you find all the video of the healthcare debate that President Obama promised would be aired on CSPAN!

  5. Steve Sibson1/23/2010 7:38 AM


    Don't expect an answer from Cory. He is not into transparency himself, as he deletes questions he can't answer. Or perhaps the answers are truths he does not want to accept. Whatever the case, he needs to update his moderation policy. He can't live up to the "Be honest, be real" part himself.

  6. [For Pete's sake, Steve, Jason's timestamp is 10:31 p.m. Doesn't a guy get to sleep and eat breakfast? Our does your comment spam constitute a moral obligation on the part of every blogger to repeat the same answers?]

    Jason, notice you're diverting the issue from government transparency, documents and data that we can use to make policy decisions, to a lot of personal data that you want to use to play peripheral Glenn Beck games. You have as much right to Barack Obama's college transcript as you have to mine... which is darn little.

    Now, as for info on the AIG bailout, I'd love to see that, too. And as I stated above [@Steve], the current data release is far from perfect transparency. I will always want more. But the current data release is a clear improvement in govenment transparency over previous practice.

    But it's just like if the President comes up with a program that reduces unemployment to 5%, you'll still complain that 5% of Americans are out of work... as will I... as will the President himself, who is busy trying to solve problems, not create mountains out of molehills.

  7. I sympathize with folks who want certain information from the Obama administration and aren't getting it, but it's still good news that more data is available online. I'm especially happy to see the workplace information.

  8. Steve Sibson1/23/2010 8:51 AM

    "Jason, notice you're diverting the issue"

    "You are off topic" is a common excuse Cory uses to not deal with the content of comments and not give answers. Thanks Cory for proving my point.

    "Our does your comment spam constitute a moral obligation on the part of every blogger to repeat the same answers?]"

    You have not answered the question regarding the state motto being off topic in an earlier thread. Instead you deleted it.

    Instead of saying Jason is off topic and mocking Glenn Beck, why not agree that the items that he listed should be public knowledge? Or do you think that these items should not be transparent? If so why?

    Again, I doubt you will give a clear answer. You mission is to portray Obama as someone that he is not. And by the way, Governor Rounds has done the exact same thing here is South Dakota.

  9. Steve Sibson1/23/2010 9:29 AM

    "But the current data release is a clear improvement in govenment transparency over previous practice."

    Cory, Obama promised 8 times to stop the back room deals and instead have discussions on CSPAN. The health care discussions were behind closed doors. It is intellectually dishonest to argue that Obama is for transparency. He is for misleading Americans. If you read Tim Carney's work you will understand who was to benefit the most from the health care legislation...General Electric, following by big drug corporations and big insurance companies. That is why the discussions were held behind close doors. The last thing these plutocrats and their government lackeys want is for the American people to know the truth.

  10. If it had been regarding GWB, Cory would be demanding all the same information that Jason wants to see.

    To uphold his promise of transparency, now Obama dumps a bunch of information that does not affect most people. And of course, he has made many critical CIA etc documents public, again to uphold his promise of transparency? Sorry, this isn't what his promises during the campaign meant, and the people of the US can see right through this. Releasing info critical to keeping our nation safe is NOT what a President should do. And neither is releasing "junk mail" in the name of transparency.

  11. Sorry Cory!

    I ar dummer then u, n i aknowlege thet. I noe iz jus a stoopid tee-baggar. I jeez thawt thet tha Commandr-n-Cheef of r Armd Forses shuld proove thet he is able to leegallee direkt ar militaree n thet he sined up fer Selektive Servise. i alsoo thunked thet az hees employyer ii wuz able to verrify hees edumakasion. i jeess thunked thet he wuz rekwired to shew tha same infermashun i wuld be rekwired to shew if i appleyed fer a job. how stoopid wuz i fer thinkin we were ekwal! i new i has no rigght to ure kolluge transkripps bekuz u doesnt werk fer me. i feels so dum fer askin fer his. Sorry!

    Alrighty then, I will try my best to walk your fine line of staying "on topic". I will not discuss government transparency issues related to our Commander and Chief's qualifications. I will only discuss "documents and data that we can use to make policy decisions". Now that you have put me in my place... please help me get through this mosterous pile of data! Please alert me when you find the following items:

    1. Details of the AIG bailout
    2. Details of the GM bailout
    3. Details of the Chrysler bailout
    4. Details of the bailout/purchase of AC Delco by GM
    5. Details of the deal made with GE
    6. Details of the deal made with Goldman Sachs
    7. Details of the repayment plans for the TARP loans given to major banks throughout the US
    8. Details of the TARP and Stimulus money paid out to Congressional Districts that do not exist
    9. Details of the bribes given to Sen. Landrieu and Sen. Nelson
    10. Details of the coercion of Sen. Lieberman by threatening his wife's job
    11. Details of the White House meetings with the head of SEIU (of the names released SEIU is the most frequent visitor to the White House)
    12. Details of corruption involving the Unions' tax exemption in the healthcare bill
    13. Details of the stimulus money directed to ACORN
    14. Details concerning the SEC sealing TARP repayment information until 2018.
    15. Video footage of the closed-door healthcare debates that President Obama promised would be aired on CSPAN

    Sorry eff my kwestshuns r stoopid agin... i noe i r not as smart as u. Pleeze fell freee to talk down to me sum mor! Fer if u dont, i will nevar lern my plase in sosietee.

    i eagarly awate my nects helppin of govermant rashioned tranzparentsee. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm!

    Liv long and prossper komrad! (Sorree, i fergot that soshalists dont waant us to liv loong or to prossper. my bad)

    Jason Bjorklund

    As a shareholder of GM and Chrysler, I have decided to sell my shares of the company. They are not performing up to my expectations. Where can I go to sell them?

  12. Wow, these comments start off nice and rational and then go into crazy town. Seriously people, try to stay on topic.

  13. Steve Sibson1/23/2010 3:24 PM


    What is off topic and why?

    And Cory, why did you delete that comment? It addressed directly what you said. Or does that matter any more?

  14. This would be funny if it weren't so sad. I brought up roughly 30 transparancy issues... and all you and your friends do is scream "off topic".

    I may be just an ignorant "teabagger", but my questions are legitimate and "on topic". Under an article where the author cockily states, "You want government transparency? President Obama's got your transparency right here...", I bring up 30 legitamate transparency points... and all I get from the author and the peanut gallery is "OFF TOPIC". Bullcrap! ("Teabaggers" -I love how you try to dehumanize and belittle us... a tactic right out of "Mein Kampf" and "Rules for Radicals". Is that to paint us as idiots? Because everyone knows you don't have to justify your actions to an idiot. Right? You also make digs about being a Glenn Beck fan... another tactic out of "Rules for Radicals"... tie it to a person and destroy the person. I assume that is also why you don't allow anonymous comments. When you can't destroy the argument, you destroy the person... and that is so much harder to do when you don't know who that person is. You force those of us who don't agree with you to sign our name... but it is okay for your little buddies to use pseudonyms. On the rare occasion when you allow it on the other side... you take every known opporitunity to point out who those people are! But just as President Obama trickles out a little transparency on occasion, you on rare occasion trickle a name or two to us. We get attacked by people we don't know. It is convenient how you blindfold just one team. I do actually respect the fact that at least Mark O'Laughlen and a couple others use their full names. I don't agree with them... but I can respect them.)

    On the occasions when we argue... and you were right and I was wrong. I admit it. I give you a hearty "touche" and we move on. Can you not do the same in return? Do the rules of decency only apply to us serfs?

    I stand by my questions. This is a character-revealing moment. Give me a hearty "touche" or start knocking my points down one by one.

    Jason Bjorklund

  15. Jason-

    Perhaps I'm looking at this differently than you. With regards to your second post, I certainly would agree with you that it would be nice to have access to a lot of that information. However, that doesn't diminish the value of the information that was just released.

    The information in this release is primarily day to day operational information, which for me, is very exciting. From a citizen activist point of view, this is the information that one needs to embarrass bad decision making at the governmental level.

    In particular, we can use this information on a local level to force changes in policy. If this information is analyzed and reported to the masses through blogs/tv/etc. it can change the public perception of how the government operates.

    While it may not be world shaking information (which to be honest, what you are looking for), it is the type of information that can be used to prove corruption.

    For a tea-party member, I would think this would be particularly exciting for you. You now have access to information that you can use to conclusively prove the incompetence of the government in certain areas using their own reports!

  16. Please allow me to defend Cory here, at least within certain "reasonable bounds" which I take the liberty to arbitrarily define, set, and adjust (whatever the heck that means).

    Cory says, "I stand by my point: Mere data and primary documents are enormously important to transparency and citizen participation."

    I agree, although "information overload" can sometimes (be used in an attempt to?) "snow" the everyday consumer. Nevertheless, raw, uninterpreted data constitutes the only truly accurate information that we have in this, the Epoch of Spin.

    A concerned citizen must assume the responsibility of dealing with a lot of data -- sometimes ridiculously large quantities. But what's the alternative? Crisp, tight, clear interpretations passed through a propagandistic filter and fed to us like baby pap?

    Now that I've said that, I have to confess that I sometimes sense bias on Cory's part. But this is his blog, anyhow, and I would commit hypocrisy if I were to proclaim my freedom from bias. (Long live the Libertarian Party, by golly!)

  17. Jason: Tony and Stan both show that I've already offered my response. I even said in the original post that more data is better. I've already acknowledged that some of the information you're asking for would be useful and should be released (Tony agrees!). The main point is that, in general, transparency about how our government operates is good.

    However, most of the info you're asking for is not data about government programs that can help all parties evaluate and improve policy. As Tony notes, anyone truly interested in checking government waste and corruption should be thrilled about having access to this information.

    Instead, Jason, you are concentrating on info requested mostly by partisan cranks who don't want to acknowledge Barack Hussein Obama's presidency and want to throw him out of office. The President could release every dribble of data you want, even the private stuff we aren't entitled to, and we'd still be no closer to evaluating the effective performance of government policy. You're debating the personal; I'm discussing the political (in the classical sense of the word, dealing with questions of how we live together in community and work together to solve problems). That's why I said you are diverting us from the original issue.

    Stan is absolutely right that I am biased. I am interested in certain issues and not others. Medicare data, OSHA reports, defense spending—absolutely! But Barack Obama's baptism record?!?! Are you serious?!?! I defy you to demonstrate what that has to do with any question of policy or the Constitution.

    [And where does all the wise-guy anti-intellectual stuff come into this debate, Jason? I missed the line where I impugned your intellect or your orthography. I think you're imagining things... kind of like the rest of the birthers.]

  18. (Did I mention, Jason, you're not getting a touché on this one?)

  19. Steve Sibson1/24/2010 8:04 AM

    "I defy you to demonstrate what that has to do with any question of policy or the Constitution."

    The Constitutian states that a President has to be a natural born citizen.

    "And where does all the wise-guy anti-intellectual stuff come into this debate, Jason? I missed the line where I impugned your intellect or your orthography. I think you're imagining things... kind of like the rest of the birthers."


    Jason gave examples, and now you just handed over another with the "you're imagining things".

    Take this from one who battled the transparency issue in Pierre. The executive branch did not want "the people" to define what needs to be transparent and how it was to be presented. Instead they wanted to do that. So what are they hiding? But I do agree with your admission that you are being political. I'm not. I am holding Obama to the same standard set in regard to a GOP governor. This is not about politics, this is about fairness and accountability.

    And Cory, do you understand the difference between "data" and "information"?


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