Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Recovering From Recovery.gov

COLUMN NOTES: In reality, I found a lot of information on this site. But it only brought up about 1000 more questions so I just decided to have a little fun with it. It did generate several comments on the newspaper's website though which you can read here.

HARBESON: The bumpy road to Recovery.gov

In my continuing effort to help my readers learn about government, I often get myself into really scary situations. Last week, when I read that entire government-issued press release and found myself deep within the bowels of the Indiana Code, was only the latest example of how far I’m willing to go.

Fortunately, after a nice long shower and a bit of debriefing with the son-in-law, I was able to come out of that experience feeling strong. As a matter of fact, I felt especially full of courage this week. Son-in-law apparently agrees, because he did confirm that I was full of it.

Anyway, I felt so good that I decided it was time to tackle the big one. Of course, I’m referring to Recovery.gov, the Web site that lists in detail everything you never wanted to know about the federal stimulus plan.

I was a bit leery about doing this though. I heard reports of people visiting the site who soon became so overloaded with detail that they just ran away screaming, never again to utter a single coherent word of complaint about the federal stimulus funds.

Yes, it is a scary Web site. The first thing I noticed upon entering was lots of numbers — ID numbers, award numbers, code numbers, order numbers and numbers referring to the other numbers.

Oh, and of course plenty of “dollars awarded” numbers. I suspect the dollars awarded are what scares most people away because hardly any of us learned to count that high in math class.

The site has so many numbers, there’s a special link called Clarification of Codes just to, well, clarify the codes. I bravely opened the huge “Clarification of Codes” page and it sent shivers up my spine.

I decided that maybe I really didn’t need to read up on the meaning of phrases like “IDV Procurement Instrument ID.” I hope you don’t think less of me.

I will say that there was one particularly pleasing part of this page which was the pronouncement of the phrase, “Principal Place of Performance.” But that’s only because I like alliteration.

I was about to just give up gathering anything useful for this column when I saw an interesting link at the top of the page. It was a link to the Google Translate page.

Yes! I knew Google could rescue me because Google always helps me out of sticky situations when I need information. So I clicked the link.

Once on the Google translator, though, I immediately became confused again. Oh sure, I had many languages I could click on for the “translate from” field, but all I could see were actual meaningful languages developed from humans throughout history. I looked down the list at least five times and could not find the selection I was looking for. “Government Gobbledygook” was simply not there.

I do not understand that at all. I mean, they had languages like Estonian and Swahili; Maltese and Persian. Oy vey, they even had Yiddish! I hate to kvetch but that really takes some chutzpah not to include Government Gobbledygook, doesn’t’ it?

Maybe the site was just broken that day.

I was ready to leave Recovery.gov, but I felt responsible for sharing something useful in this column, so I took one more look and saw a tab titled “Where is the Money Going.” Now, of course I didn’t fall for that one. I knew that if I clicked on that link, I’d get sent down a big black hole.

Listen, I’m willing to do a lot for you people, but I’m not going to go that far.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson is slowly recovering from her Recovery.gov research ordeal. She hopes to be back to her old self next week.

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