Carl Malamud for Public Printer

Government communications can drive beneficial change in information and communication opportunities and services. In current difficult economic circumstances, intelligent, vigorous leadership in government communications is particularly important. Carl Malamud can provide such leadership as Public Printer, as the head of the U.S. Government Printing Office. I enthusiastically endorse Carl Malamud for Public Printer, and I encourage everyone to do likewise.

Take a look at what Carl Malamud and have already accomplished. One of Malamud’s early projects was getting U.S. Security and Exchange Commission filings freely available online through the Edgar system in the mid-1990s. With a lot more financial information publicly available we might have avoided at least some of our current financial sector problems. Another notable project was to upload Smithsonian Institution images to flickr. The Library of Congress subsequently uploaded more than 4,900 photos to flickr and received an enthusiastic public response.

The Internet creates the possibility of making important public works available to everyone. Yes We Scan!

COB-32: exploiting bureaucracy

butterfly stealing a drink from a watermelon

Ants are second only to humans in bureaucratic excellence. Study of ants thus potentially provides important insights into bureaucratic behavior. Recently scientists observed ant meetings with purported high-level ant management:

Clustering around the speaker, worker ants stay motionless in a hunched-over posture with antennae out and jaws slightly open. Like an honor guard around a human queen, worker ants will maintain that pose for hours.

Such behavior indicates well-trained bureaucrats. Unfortunately, the purported high-level management was an imposter, a complete fraud, in reality not a queen ant but actually a caterpillar. Through the misfortune of biological change, a species of butterflies has evolved the ability to exploit ants. The caterpillar stage of the butterfly makes noises (“Staff meeting! Staff meeting!”) that induce the ants to carry the caterpillar into the ant nest and treat it like a queen.  Appalling exploitation results from the ants’ dedicated bureaucratic service:

[the] interloper caterpillar gains most of its body mass while luxuriating in ant care, and then turns into a Maculinea rebeli butterfly.

This is similar to the revolving door phenomenon in high-level managerial positions in some human bureaucracies. To avoid exploitation, ant and human bureaucracies should avoid bringing in outsiders and should be suspicious of managers who appear to differ from previous managers.

StickSlip at Orbis criticizes Elizabeth Alexander’s inauguration poem for containing “unremarkable clichès” and “prosaic platitudes”.  Clichès and platitudes are prominent features of bureaucratic writing. They also make for commercially successful poetry.  We foresee a bright future for Ms. Alexander in the greeting card industry.

Victor Barrenceha at ArtLurker documents the problems of an artist who lacks sufficient respect for bureaucracy. A Miami code inspector issued code infractions to artist Clifton Childree for: “Weird mannequins with their heads chopped off in the garage, … movie theatre with collapsed ceiling in the backyard, as well as piles of rotted wood, scattered furniture, and other debris.” Bureaucracy is a higher art than art. Artists who want to be exhibited in a major art institution must learn to appreciate bureaucracy.

Andy at TinkerX offers a rousing defense of middle management. We agree completely on all points. Without middle management, the whole bureaucratic structure would collapse in upon itself.

Jim Sinclair at Jim Sinclair’s mineset offers a brief explanation of economic stimulus payments. It’s clearly far too brief for a bureaucratic to have actually written it.

Bureaucratic work requires intense concentration. While most bureaucrats are superhuman, some are merely human. This can lead to problems with young, sexy interns. Fortunately, European Commission officials have recognizes this problem and are organizing a study group to examine it. The Telegraph, continuing a tradition of sensational newspaper reporting, has crassly sensationalized this legitimate concern for bureaucratic concentration. Consider this quote from an anonymous source:

“I think men working here in boring jobs would love to believe that sexy women spies were after their bodies and their secrets. I personally think it is unlikely,” said Petra, a 24-year old stagiare from a Baltic country.

Bureaucrats do not have boring jobs. In addition, sexy women spies are after their bodies. And if Petra (I believe the root of Petra is “rock”) had more bureaucratic skill, she would produce a 25-page report on the subject rather than merely declare what she personally thinks.

That’s all for this month’s Carnival of Bureaucrats. Submit your blog article to the next edition using our carnival submission form. Submissions should conform to the Carnival’s regulations. Past editions of the Carnival of Bureaucrats can be found on the Carnival’s category page.