Government Docs

New FGI Discussions: January 16, 2006

Daniel writes "This week the volunteers at Free Government Information ( posted the discussions below. We hope you will join us and join the conversation. Remember, you can always comment without registering.

If you use Bloglines ( or some other RSS Reader, consider subscribing to the FGI Feed at to get FGI stories as they are posted. No activity was observed at the main FDSys (Future Digital System) web site, but the Future Digital System blog has posted a "Master Integrator Acquisition Update" on Friday January 13, 2006. The update seems to be mostly for contractors, but we welcome any comments you might have on any of the posted FDSys documents."

Freedom of Information and IRS.

kathleen writes "I.R.S. Move Said to Hurt the Poor.
Tax refunds sought by 1.6 million poor Americans over the last five years were frozen and their returns labeled fraudulent, although the vast majority appear to have done nothing wrong, the Internal Revenue Service's taxpayer advocate told Congress yesterday.. Taxpayer Advocate.

Public Citizen:
In violation of a longstanding court order, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has knowingly stopped providing a widely recognized data expert with detailed statistics about how the agency enforces the nation's tax laws, according to a motion filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington.

The legal challenge was brought by Susan B. Long, professor Syracuse University. Long has used the IRS's own data to document its performance for more than 30 years. Since 1989 she also has been co-director of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data research organization that provides the public with detailed information about the operation of hundreds of federal agencies, including the IRS.

Long obtained a court order on July 23, 1976, from Judge Walter McGovern in connection with Long's studies of the agency while she was pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Washington. The order requires the IRS to provide her statistical data on an ongoing basis about its audit, collection and other enforcement activities.

For many years, the IRS largely abided by McGovern's order. Since mid-2004, however, the agency has refused to comply even while acknowledging the existence of the court order and of statistical material collected by the agency that is covered by the order. The agency has not offered an explanation for its refusal to provide the information. The motion filed today asks the court to compel compliance with the order.

For more than 10 years, TRAC has used the IRS's own data to produce a regular series of reports about the performance of what is today one of the nation's largest and most powerful agencies. The reports are posted on TRAC's Web site,
TRAC has Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suits pending against the Justice Department's Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys and the Office of Personnel Management. In addition, TRAC has administrative FOIA requests seeking data and other information from the Justice Department's Civil Division and its Environmental and Natural Resources Division, its immigration courts and several agencies within the Department of Homeland Security."

Loosing the human touch at the National Archives

As experienced employees retire at the National Archives, a $300 million digital boondoggle looms:

As a young historian visiting the National Archives more than four decades ago, Allen Weinstein met an employee named Mr. Taylor who seemed to know the whereabouts of every document - from the Declaration of Independence to the latest Bureau of Mines report - in the entire block-long neoclassical complex. Mr. Taylor was still working there last February when Weinstein was sworn in as the ninth archivist of the United States.

Weinstein has a lot to say about the 84-year-old civil servant when I meet him in his vast office, furnished mostly in the generic colonial-federalist style favored by embassies and bed-and-breakfasts. It doesn't matter that I've come to talk about the new Electronic Records Archives project, which Lockheed-Martin will build at a cost of $308 million over the next six years. "What are your hopes for ERA?" I ask the nation's archivist. "What are your

"I worry about losing Mr. Taylor," he mumbles, his voice barely audible.

Complete article from Wired via robot wisdom.

BBC opens 50 Year News Archives for Free Downloads writes "For the first time in its history BBC News is opening its archives to the UK public for a trial period. You can download nearly 80 news reports covering iconic events of the past 50 years including the fall of the Berlin Wall, crowds ejecting soldiers from Beijing's Tiananmen Square and behind-the-scenes footage of the England team prior to their victory over West Germany in 1966.You are welcome to download the clips, watch them, and use them to create something unique"

Many of state's digital records disappearing

The Contra Costa Times reports California State officials -- like their counterparts in the federal government and the private sector -- are facing a perplexing paradox: Documents and publications available at lightning speed can disappear just as quickly.

With no uniform or consistent procedures in place to capture the records of California government, much is being lost, officials say.

Half would be a conservative estimate, said John Jewell, chief of state library services for the California State Library.

Two new govdocs blogs

Government Documents librarians are joining the "biblioblogosphere" Here are two relatively new blogs that are helping raise awareness of "news you can use" government information sources:

The Red Tape blog is more Michigan focused, but still carries items of interest to all. The Colorado blog was started around Thanksgiving 2005 and uses a conversational document/gov web site of the day format.

Both blogs allow comments, although I didn't see comments on either blog.

New transparency law shifts balance of power in Mexico

Sign On Sandiego takes a look at the the first federal open-records legislation in Mexican history, passed in 2002. The political cost of enacting a transparency law has been high for Fox and his government. But for Mexican citizens, the law has opened the door to a once-secret world and allowed them to see the inner workings of their government.
"This is a very ancient culture of secrecy, of concealing things, so the response by the public has been limited," said José Carreño, who heads the journalism program at Mexico City's Iberoamerican University. "Ordinary people don't know what to do with this information."

Shipping Corpn follows RTI, but National Library lags behind

Kolkata Newsline - New Delhi,India Reports WHILE a staff crunch has come in the way of implementing the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005 in the country’s oldest and biggest library, the National Library, Kolkata, the Act is already in place at the regional office of the Shipping Corporation of India.

All government offices and institutes were supposed to have implemented the Act by October 12. ‘‘We just have the bare minimum staff to run the daily affairs of the library. The implementation of the RTI Act requires a lot of effort in preparing the manuals and documenting the data of many years. Where is the staff strenghth for all this work?’’ asked one of them.

Memory Hole: A Place for Information "We're not supposed to know"

Kelly writes "While doing research for a librarian friend, I serendipitously hit upon a very interesting web site that offers hard-to-find information, called "The Memory Hole" at

Here's their mission statement, "Purpose: The Memory Hole exists to preserve and spread material that is in danger of being lost, is hard to find, or is not widely known. This includes:

Ottawa plots making maps without paper - Canadian maps to go totally digital

Daniel Phelan sent over an interesting Globe And Mail article on plans to put Canadian Govt. topographic map data on the Internet where companies and individuals would be able to access the information, either free or for a fee, and then print it or pay a professional printer to do it.John Dawson, acting director of Natural Resources Canada's Centre for Topographic Information, figures that people are upset about the proposal because it is the latest in a series of changes to the map-making business that depart from the philosophy of the original craftsmen who treated cartography and map reading as an art.


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