New horizons in data appreciation

Pilot fish is working for a defense contractor when he gets the job of creating reports to break down company spending -- and for a very specific purpose.

"These reports broke down where the company was spending how much money with vendors, and for which defense-related program -- radar, satellite, whatever," says fish.

"In accumulating the purchase-order data, certain anomalies became obvious -- like the snow removal contract for one of the plants, which showed a cost of $39 million for one year. That turned out to be a data-entry error.

"Once I had produced the reports and tweaked them for use, I asked the purpose. Turns out the reports were going to be used for lobbying.

"I could just imagine a meeting between the company's lobbyist and a Congresscritter: 'Well, Mr./Ms. Critter, I understand that you want to cancel this defense system. You do realize that as part of that program, we spent $35 million in your district with this specific subcontractor. Without that money, how many of your constituents will be laid off and lose their jobs?'

"I initially thought it was an interesting use of the data. Now, though, I feel a bit dirty."

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