All week, I’ve been trying to research U.S. census data for one of our upcoming articles. Turns out, today is the government shutdown which means everything except for “vital services” and the related employees are closed. The idea is that anything which, by being open, requires the government to spend money that Congress has not approved cannot open.
I understand that. That’s why the parks, monuments, research projects, etc. are are closed. They have not been given permission to spend money.
However, you’d think that, like the Zoo continuing to feed their animals, the government could continue to pay for their website hosting. And the government continued to pay for their website hosting and the domain name licensing but hid all of the data from Internet users. Why does that make any sense? Why did http://www.census.gov/ close?
See the screen shot from 9 AM this morning:
In order to display the above TXT file, Census.gov had to pay for 1) hosting, 2) the domain name, and 3) some employee to put up this file.
If they had instead just left the website alone, displaying its normal census data, it would have only cost them 1) hosting and 2) the domain name. Like the Zoo animals costing the government food and feeder salaries rather than food, feeder, vender, and janitorial salaries, it would have been cheaper to leave the website up but send the employees home.
Clearly our administration wants to make a point though. By cutting everyone off from anything government related, they show us addicts how much we need them, what withdrawal could be like without them.
The outage page for http://www.whitehouse.gov/ is the most pointed:
I was surprised when, shortly after 11am, they updated WhiteHouse.gov to take you to a modified homepage, rather than the above outage screen. I wonder what lucky executive employee got to perform that job and whether he or she was paid for it.
Also, it is important to note that the Health Insurance Marketplace opens today, and — don’t worry! — their site is up and running just fine at https://www.healthcare.gov/
Here’s a screen shot:
Just found an article on Ars Technica about the shutdown of government website called, “Shutdown of US government websites appears bafflingly arbitrary: Of 56 .gov websites that Ars checked, only 10 are going dark entirely.”
In the article, Cyrus Farivar reports in a table which sites are down and which are still up. Of the 50+ sites, he reports the following 10 down:
Down for the count nasa.gov “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience.” loc.gov “Due to the temporary shutdown of the federal government, the Library of Congress is closed to the public and researchers beginning October 1, 2013 until further notice. All public events are cancelled and web sites are inaccessible except the legislative information sites THOMAS.gov and beta.congress.gov.” archives.gov “We are unable to blog, post to Facebook, or tweet during the Federal Government shutdown. (This does not apply to the Federal Records Centers.)” ftc.gov “Unfortunately, the Federal Trade Commission is closed due to the government shutdown.” nps.gov “Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed and National Park Service webpages are not operating. For more information, go to www.doi.gov.” usda.gov “Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available. We sincerely regret this inconvenience.” census.gov “Due to the lapse in government funding, census.gov sites, services, and all online survey collection requests will be unavailable until further notice.” trade.gov “Due to the lapse in government funding, the International Trade Administration website you are trying to reach will be unavailable until appropriations are enacted. We sincerely regret this inconvenience.” ssa.gov omsre.gov
His article came out at 2:10pm and, like my experience with WhiteHouse.gov suggests, the list of websites either up or down seems to have changed since he posted his article. Still that these sites were ever down, seems interesting.
What emerges is a rather bizarre picture. Nearly all of the agencies we looked at are up, even those with a message about the shutdown. Very few, in fact, have genuinely closed down entirely. (One DC watcher speculated that this White House memo [PDF] may have something to do with the policy.)
The memo says:
Given that websites represent the front-end of numerous back-end processing systems, agencies must determine whether the entire website can be shut down or components of the website will be shut down.