U.S. Government All But Disappears from the Web

By Tom Yulsman | October 1, 2013 5:17 pm

Closed for business.

When I went to NASA’s fabulous Earth Observatory web site today to find some imagery for a post on fractal fog, I first got the dreaded spinning pizza of death. And then the page up top appeared.

DUH! Not only is the federal government mostly closed for business, it’s presence on the web has mostly vanished. True, web pages connected with government services deemed essential are still up and running. And I certainly haven’t done a scientific survey to see what proportion are down. But I tried a bunch, and most of them are dark.

And btw, NASA has the greatest percentage of employees on furlough — 97 percent — according to a piece in Slate.

Does anyone else get at least a vague feeling that we’ve entered some sort of new territory with this, and not a very good place at that?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Miscellaneous, select, Top Posts
  • http://sashapalomar.weebly.com/ Sasha Palomar

    I am curious as to why these sites would stop responding now that the government has shut down. Had their admins and operators received requests to stop their operations?

    I can understand either approach: (a) shut down the sites so there is no confusion to their users that the site may not completely work and so the users don’t needlessly spin their wheels trying to make the site work, or (b) keep the site running if it doesn’t require active admin or operator involvement, and if things start to break, leave them broken.

    Perhaps option (a), the one they’ve appeared to take, is the simpler, cleaner one.

    But it puts me in mind of the early days of the web on small municipal and other governmental websites. The sites would only be in operation from 9am-5pm on weekdays, when city workers were at their desks. They would display an “out-of-service” message at all other times.

  • Bink

    It’s not as if running a billion odd official live-dead-sites costs significantly less than active ones. Or does it? Databases and servers at the Library of Congress need human operators? Government tweeters are official and paid? Our friend in deep space @NASAVoyager2 tweeted late last night “Due to government shutdown, we will not be posting or responding from this account. Farewell, humans. Sort it out yourselves.” Last laugh is on us.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Jonathan Tracey

      I believe that the silencing of twitter accounts may involve people not wanting to completel screw up their actions.. Maybe?

  • mhollis

    This is politics, pure and simple. And it is very effective. What the administration is doing here is calling to question the need for a shutdown. There is no need.

    So a bunch of extremist crackpots want to hold the government hostage over settled law they don’t like? What’s next? They don’t like Social Security, either. They don’t like Medicare. They don’t like the EPA. They don’t like the Department of Education.

    The strong point is being made that it is time to disavow the crackpots and get back to serving the people.

    • Buddy199

      The Constitution was deliberately constructed to separate the powers of government so that there was no lopsided concentration of power in any particular branch. They built grid lock into the system to prevent what they had witnessed in Britain in the 16th and 17th centuries, one political group gaining outsized power and imposing tyranny.

      Dusty, archaic ideas for our brave new progressive age, I know, but they have served us well for over two centuries.

      • mhollis

        Buddy, we survived eight years under the worst President in American History, GW Bush. That is why George Washington set the two-term precedent. The framers of the Constitution didn’t limit Washington, he relinquished power gladly.

        But Washington also presided over the secret Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. He knew that the Articles of Confederation were not workable and those Articles had created gridlock. Washington had written the Continental Congress numerous times asking for pay for his soldiers and none came. No law could be passed without the assent of ALL of the states delegations. And if one delegate voted one way and the other delegate voted the other, the vote was recorded as a “non-assent.” Frankly, I think Washington’s offer to preside over our Constitutional Convention in 1787 was to offer an implicit threat: As the most popular person of that era, he could have formed a military dictatorship—in fact, that is what King George III figured he would do.

        Our Constitution was designed to BREAK the gridlock, yet still have a Congress that would attend to the business of government. So, obviously, you don’t know anything about our Constitution, why it was written and what is in it.

        Don’t just parrot lies that you heard on Faux “news” or from some right-wing bloviator.

        • Buddy199

          Luckily, Washington was prescient enough to foresee the consequences of the Bush presidency. I think I heard Rachel Maddow make that same point on MSDNC.

          Separation of powers is inefficient, it is an obstacle to substantial change, and it will not only “allow” gridlock but it is explicitly designed to encourage it. The deliberate dispersion of power prevents “elective dictatorship” so that neither the President nor Congress have carte blanche, thank God. While it is the dream of most in Washington to have complete, unhindered authority to do whatever they want luckily the Constitution forces both sides to compromise in order to avoid gridlock, or as a way to undo gridlock. As of today, both sides have expressed their strong positions, gridlock has taken place, only one side has offered any points of compromise to undo such while the other draws yet another red, or is it pink?, line.

          • mhollis

            Ah, so you think that it is perfectly OK for the terrorists to take hostages of the American economy. And that’s what counts as “compromise” to you.

            Back in the 1960s, when we started adding small amounts of Fluoride to city water to build stronger teeth in the American population, the John Birch Society decried it was a substance that would turn us all into Communists.

            They have been proven wrong.

            But Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley called them what they are: Crackpots. Nut-cases, and a danger to our Republic.

            What you are seeing right now, is the crackpots and nut-cases in control. You have Ted Cruz standing up in the well of the Senate for 21 hours—then voting FOR what he said he opposed, allowing the Senate to advance the bill, stripped of the House Hostage. What? Too little air time? Nobody paying enough attention to Teddie-boy?

            If these people hate the United States that much, they need to leave the country and go form some kind of theocracy run by the insane somewhere else.

    • Buddy199

      So a bunch of extremist crackpots want to hold the government hostage over settled law they don’t like? What’s next? They don’t like Social Security, either.


      The Administration refuses to enforce settled immigration law and others they don’t particularly like. Does that make them crackpots, or politicians?

      • mhollis

        So the fact that the Obama Administration in the first three years of his Presidency deported more foreign nationals for either not having a visa or overstaying their visa than the Bush Administration in 8 years counts for nothing. Buddy, get your facts straight. Don’t just parrot lies that you heard on Faux “news” or from some right-wing bloviator.

        Obama, after consulting with the IRS, decided to do what they asked him to do, which is delay the fines for businesses that did not cover employees. Nevertheless, businesses with over 500 employees will get a TAX CREDIT for covering their employees. So, let’s see… Is it that you want companies fined before the IRS can properly audit their returns. or you disagree that there should be tax credits?

        • Buddy199

          “In a stunning order, a federal judge Wednesday said that the Obama administration is likely violating the law by telling immigration agents and officers not to arrest illegal aliens they deem “low priority”, in a lawsuit brought by ICE agents.

          Federal Judge Reed O’Connor said in a court order Tuesday that Congress, not the president, sets priority for arresting illegal immigrants, and said the law requires them to be put in deportation proceedings.

          “The court finds that DHS does not have discretion to refuse to initiate removal proceedings,” Judge O’Connor wrote in a stunning order few had expected.”


          “Secretary of State John Kerry, wishing “Happy Pride to all,” told a gathering of State Department homosexuals that he’s proud of the Obama administration for refusing to defend a federal law the president dislikes.”

          Like it or not, those elected to enforce the law have the legal obligation to enforce all laws.


          And from the right wing rag Washington Post:

          “White House delays employer mandate requirement until 2015”

          “The Obama administration will not penalize businesses that do not provide health insurance in 2014, the Treasury Department announced Tuesday.

          Instead, it will delay enforcement of a major Affordable Care Act requirement that all employers with more than 50 employees provide coverage to their workers until 2015.

          The administration said it would postpone the provision after hearing significant concerns from employers about the challenges of implementing it.

          “We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively,” Mark Mazur, Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, wrote in a late Tuesday blog post. “We recognize that the vast majority of businesses that will need to do this reporting already provide health insurance to their workers, and we want to make sure it is easy for others to do so.”

          The Affordable Care Act requires all employers with more than 50 full-time workers provide health insurance or pay steep fines. That policy had raised concerns about companies downsizing their workforce or cutting workers’ hours in order to dodge the new mandate.

          In delaying the enforcement of that rule, the White House sidesteps those challenges for one year. It is also the second significant interruption for the Affordable Care Act, following a one-year delay on key functions of the small business insurance marketplaces.”

          Another unintended consequence of a 2,471 page law that virtually no congressman read and certainly none understand.

          • mhollis

            On June 27, 2007, O’Connor was nominated by President George W. Bush (The worst President in the history of the United States) to a seat on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas vacated by A. Joe Fish. The United States Senate confirmed O’Connor’s appointment on November 16, 2007, and he received his commission on November 21, 2007.

            Let’s just say that he is guilty of the kind of bias that the Supreme Court showed in Bush v. Gore.

            Of course, we could look into the “signing statements” of Bush, announcing he would not enforce the law as Congress wrote it. Here’s a link:


            No President in history has signed a law and then said he was not going to enforce it—until GW Bush.

            Of course FDR pretty much stopped enforcing Prohibition once the states started confirming the Twenty-first Amendment.

            Here’s the deal, overstaying your visa or entering this country without one (where required) is a MISDEMEANOR. Have you ever run a stop sign? Exceeded the speed limit? Thrown litter in a place not a trash can? These are misdemeanors.

            But you seem to have no problem with Obama deciding to not to enforce the federal FELONY of possession and/or distribution of marijuana in Colorado and Washington State (as well as those states that have allowed its use for medicinal purposes).

            No, you’re completely silent about that. In fact, I’ll bet you either don’t care or agree with the President. Why? Because marijuana has been misclassified as a substance that 100% of the time is harmful to humans. And you know it is not.

            Now, the ACA requires all employers with more than 50 employees working full-time to provide health insurance, or face fines that are LESS THAN THE COST OF INSURANCE. And the fines have been delayed by one year—but the tax deductions are not.

            And this law WAS challenged. And the Supreme Court upheld it. So, challenge all you want, it’s settled law.

            I would also remind you that Republicans opposed Social Security. They opposed Medicare. But back then, they had sense enough to not hold the business of governing this nation hostage or threaten to harm the full faith and credit of the United States just because these laws passed.

            They have lost that sense. They have allowed a small faction in the House to do what Osama bin Ladin wanted to do: Harm the American Economy by attacking it.

            These Republicans are terrorists. And you support them, Buddy.

  • Buddy199

    From Wikipedia:

    “Starting in 1976, the United States Federal Government has shut down on 18 occasions.”

    The Republic survived, and will again we can be sure.

  • NobleHead

    I am not saying, ‘anyone in particular’ thinks in the terms of two totally different political parties, I do not know that, but when people wake-up and realize, there is no ‘DNC or RNC’, and they are all part of the same, with different talking points. They have been trading hats every few years, that is all that has been happening for 50+ years.

    The so-called Federal Reserve and the World Bank Organization(s?) have been calling the shots for quite a long time.

    United States Secret Service, called the ‘OSS’ when formalized early last century, had many rich elitists appointed, so-much-so they were referred to as the Oh So Snobbish, this has not changed. And why be surprised, because the ‘Federal Reserve’ was invented in secret and then empowered by the same groups in our own government.

    So, once you invent a method for permanently funding any and everything you desire, the sky is the limit. Essentially the USA has become a mercenary force at the beck&call of the financial causes of elitists. Let that cook a while.

    We do not need to be empowering the increase of the ‘Government Helping Hands’. Instead we need to encourage the pioneering spirit of all the people, that is what really made this nation free and a powerhouse.

  • MyKitchenandI

    I find it very lame they’d go to the trouble to black these types of generally educational sites out like this. It’s not as if it requires a human operator to present information already compiled and posted.

  • http://www.bright-heritage.com/ Bright Heritage

    I wonder when they will resume operation.



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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