Carnival of the Bureaucrats #1

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Carnival of the Bureaucrats!

The best entry in this edition has been unanimously judged to be Foreign Policy’s photo essay, The State at Work. An appropriately selective quotation from its first page:

Civil servants are asked to do the people’s work with very little, sometimes with nothing at all. They see to it that the job gets done ….. Meet the bureaucrats.

My personal favorite: Josephine George-Francis, governor of Montserrado County, Liberia. According to the photo essay, she “sewed the Liberian flag that hangs in her office.” That’s exactly the kind of resourcefulness and dedication that characterizes many bureaucrats in much lower positions in countries all across the spectrum of per capita income.

Honorable Mention for appreciation of bureaucrats by a non-bureaucrat goes to Stowe Boyd at /message, for declaring, “the only answer to the Cold War is government intervention.” A few decades ago this insight could have saved googols of rubles and dollars.

The heart and soul of bureaucracy is editing. Editing is what makes bureaucracy great. The New York Times recently showed considerable bureaucratic mettle in editing a letter to the editor. The letter was eventual withdrawn, with the decisive issue being the use of “rubbish”. Outstanding! Even better, this matter produced 14 emails over five days of pondering the issues. Read the emails (pdf file) for yourself and cheer!

Jon Swift presents Homeland Security Thinks Outside the Box posted at Jon Swift. Swift observes, “Homeland Security Department stays one step ahead of the terrorists by not only anticipating likely terrorist targets but even anticipating the terrorists’ anticipation of our anticipating them.” This work appears to draw insights from the scholarly field of game theory. It undoubtedly can generate many additional papers and results. Swift apparently is a federal bureaucrat stationed in Alaska. Perhaps the exceptional quality of his blogging will win him enough friends to get a position in DC.

Nedra Weinreich presents The Insider’s Guide to Writing a Winning Proposal posted at Spare Change. This submission was filed after the deadline for the Carnival. Moreover, it did not include a request for a waiver of the Carnival rules. Hence this entry has been rejected. We do not reach the issue of whether, if a properly prepared waiver request had been filed, that waiver request would have been granted.

That concludes this edition of the Carnival of the Bureaucrats. Submit your blog article to the next edition using our carnival submission form. Submissions should conform to the Carnival regulations. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

false copyright and false authors’ rights claims

The Internet enables sharing the intelligence and creativity of persons around the globe. Along with this exciting new set of possibilities is a little recognized shadow: the increased opportunity cost of false copyright and false authors’ rights claims.

In his insightful article, Jason Mazzone examines the problem of false copyright claims with respect to U.S. copyright law. He observes:

Copyright law itself creates strong incentives for copyfraud [false copyright claims]. The limited penalties for copyfraud under the [U.S.] Copyright Act, coupled with weak enforcement of these provisions, give publishers an incentive to claim ownership, however spurious, in everything. Although falsely claiming copyright is technically a criminal offense under the Act, prosecutions are extremely rare. Moreover, the Copyright Act provides no civil penalties for claiming copyrights in public domain materials. [Mazzone, pp. 1029-30]

Mazzone cites numerous examples of what he considers to be copyfraud. One gross, but not unusual, example that he cites is a popular pocket version of the U.S. Constitution. It includes a copyright notice and the admonition “[n]o part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means…without permission in writing from the publisher.”

The aggregate cost of copyfraud has probably increased greatly over the past decade. Using small quotes from a copyrighted text to document, illustrate, or advance discussion of a related issue is widely recognized to be fair use. Bloggers do this extensively. Falsely asserting that such use is not permitted probably doesn’t have much effect. Other forms of textual copyfraud may have significant cost. But fair use of copyrighted images, audio, and video is much less legally clear and publicly well-understood than fair use of copyrighted text. Moreover, over the past decade there has been an astonishing expansion of possibilities for creating and sharing non-textual works. The cost of copyfraud with respect to images, audio, and video has increased with this expansion. The cost of this type of copyfraud has probably become larger than the cost of copyfraud with respect to text.

Getting copyright and authors’ rights to serve better the common good requires more attention to the economic and legal implications of false claims.

Tour de Frolorado Rocked By Scandal

By Mike Schiavo,
Cycling News Special Report

JAVA SHACK (Arlington, VA) – The final results of the Tour de Frolorado were thrown into chaos today when the unorthodox training methods of GC winner Taxman were unearthed by a team of Cycling News investigative reporters.

After a thorough examination of the winner’s training records, our reporters unearthed an unusually high running/cycling ratio in the Taxman’s training logs. If verified by the French Agency for Ridiculous Testing (FART), Taxman could be stripped of his title, fired from his team, and miss out on tens of dollars in endorsement money that he would have earned as the TdF champion.

“We were as surprised as anybody,” lead reporter Bob Roll stated. “While we certainly knew about his 8-week off-the-bike taper program, intensive TV-watching, and strict dietary regimen of beer, pizza, cheeseburgers and chocolate chip cookies, the ratio of running miles to cycling miles came as a complete shock.”

“Running is natural for me,” Taxman said in a phone interview from his home in Arlington. “I’m not doing anything illegal, and I’m certainly not trying to hide anything. I intend to defend myself fully from these ridiculous charges.”

“He’s done if it’s true,” team captain Weasel said. “Cycling doesn’t need this, Lanterne Rouge doesn’t need this, and the Tour de Frolorado definitely doesn’t need this.”

FART, the international authority on the running/cycling test, has a well-established acceptable ratio of 1%, or one mile of running for every 100 miles of cycling. Hard-core cyclists are routinely tested and usually have no trouble falling within this guideline.

Dick “Dick” Pound, head of FART, explained: “We understand and accept that cyclists have to do a certain amount of running in their everyday lives. Sometimes you just can’t help running across the room to answer the phone, running after your kids, running errands, or even running up a tab. It’s unavoidable. But to run for exercise? On purpose? Cycling will just not tolerate that.”

The current controversy centers on the period May 29 – July 31, 2006, a time during which Taxman was supposedly recovering from a fractured shoulder. The stunning revelation is that during this time, his training log includes only a handful of entries for cycling, but as many as three entries per week for jogging and/or running.

In fact, for three of the weeks in question, our reporters were unable to calculate the ratio because Taxman logged zero cycling miles. “The numbers don’t lie,” Roll said. “We checked and re-checked the data, but you just can’t divide by zero.”

At the time of this posting, the effect on the final results of the TdF is unclear. What is certain, however, is that Taxman is planning a vigorous defense, starting with this sternly-worded statement by his agent Justin Gatlin: “This is sabotage, pure and simple. Somebody gained access to his training logs without his knowledge and added fictitious running entries. As for his alleged recent purchase at Metro Run and Walk, somebody obviously stole his identity and treated themselves to new running shoes. Come on, they don’t even make his favorite running shoe anymore…um, I mean…it’s sabotage, OK!!!” When asked about the equipment bag confiscated from Taxman’s car, a bag that contained running shoes, shorts and a running watch, Gatlin had no comment.

The uneasy relationship between running and cycling is not new. Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong cut his competitive teeth in triathlon, an event that involves running, cycling, and swimming. (“At least nobody’s accusing him of swimming,” Taxman’s mother chimed in from Florida.) Now that Armstrong is retired from the pro peloton he is training for the New York marathon. “Old habits die hard,” Armstrong said. “As I have said time and time again, however, during my career as a professional cyclist, I never tested positive for an unusual running/cycling ratio.”

(Editor’s note: the “Tour de France” is a three-week bicycling race that many riders use as a warmup for the Tour de Frolorado.)