The Men from the Ministry

Thursday, December 11, 2008 at 3:07 | Posted in Bureaucracy, e-mail, Germany | 2 Comments

If you were to send an e-mail and wanted to refer to information at your own web site, how would you do it? Would you

1. send a link to the appropriate URL or

2.1. print the web page

2.2. scan the printed page

2.3. compile a pdf-file and

2.4. attatch the pdf-file to your e-mail?

No doubt that most of us would prefer option 1 and would not even come to think of 2.1.-2.4. But that is exactly what the office of the German Family Minister did. Alvar Freude received an e-mail with that kind of an attachment in response to his open letter to the minister.

What the letter was about? You do not really want to know.

via RA-Blog and Compyblog

You owe the copyright lobby

Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 3:09 | Posted in Bureaucracy, computer, copyright, Germany | 3 Comments
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If you are reading this blog post, you probably possess a computer with a hard drive. There are, of course, also other ways to connect to the Internet but most of us still use a regular computer. Did you know that your computer is a device which is typically intended for recording copyrighted films and you should accordingly pay the copyright owners for the privilege of having a computer?

That seems to be the reasoning behind a ruling of the German patent officials. The story, as reported by Golem.de (via Farliblog) has it that computer manufacturers should retroactively as from 2002 pay a compensation of 15 € for each computer with a hard drive they sold.

I for one have had about half a dozen computers since 2002 but I have never used any of them as a substitute of a DVD recorder. There are typically other purposes I use my computers for. Or as Farlion puts it, you could just as well argue that the most logical purpose of a piece of paper would be writing down the contents of copyrighted books.

No entry for Smith and Jones?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007 at 5:24 | Posted in Bureaucracy, Canada | Leave a comment

Singh an Kaur are very common last names among the Sikh community. They are so common that Canadian immigration officials are apparently unable to keep record of all the Singhs and Kaurs who wish to immigrate to Canada. Which is why everybody carrying one of those names are asked by the officials to change their last name. Their immigration applications are denied if they do not comply.

CBC:

Karen Shadd-Evelyn, a spokeswoman with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, said the policy preventing people from immigrating to Canada with those last names has been in place for the last 10 years.

“I believe the thinking behind it in this case is because it is so common. [With] the sheer numbers of applicants that have those as their surnames, it’s just a matter for numbers and for processing in that visa office.”

I wonder how the Canadian government is able to keep track of all Smiths and Joneses living in Canada. So if your last name is Smith or Jones and you are considering to apply for an immigration visa to Canada, you may want to change your name for convenience of Canadian bureaucrats.

Maybe Canada should pass a law banning names alltogether. Why not just give a number to every resident? It would be so much easier for officials.

Edit: The immigration officials now say that they did not mean it that way. The letter sent to applicants with the common last names is said to be “poorly worded”.

On Wednesday, Shadd-Evelyn acknowledged to CBC News that the government does ask applicants to provide a surname in addition to Singh or Kaur “to improve client service and reduce incidents of mistaken identity.”

But she added: “This was not a mandatory requirement. There is no policy or practice whereby people with these surnames are asked to change their names.

“CIC recognizes that previous communications with clients may not have been clear on this issue and regrets any inconvenience this may have caused,” Shadd-Evelyn said.

Sounds like a classical case of damage control.

Bureaucratic computing

Friday, June 1, 2007 at 3:54 | Posted in Bureaucracy, computer, helsinki, internet, linux, Personal, ubuntu | 3 Comments
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As I told in this declaration of economic interest, my bad finances forced me to enter into an eight month contract of employment in a suburban unit of the Culture Department here in town. They needed somebody who would agree to work mostly evenings and weekends. I was supposed to see that the visitors behave themselves and also take care of the practical side of a project involving a couple of computers installed for the general public to surf with. The house was also to get a wireless network.

When I started for almost two months ago, I soon detected that maintaining public order was not a big issue. Most of the visitors are friendly and have been regulars for ages. There was not very much to do but I enjoyed reading what the book shelve had to provide.

Having read the best books in a few weeks, though, I was becoming somewhat bored. I am used to having a 24 hour access to the Internet at my home office and I certainly could have used that. The funny thing is that there was a computer connected to the Internet on my desk but I was not allowed to use it. The computer is hooked to the internal network of the city and I have not been given a user ID there although my employment is for eight months.

Even the regular staff have silly restrictions imposed on them. They are strictly forbidden to visit their personal e-mail accounts through the city network. On the other hand they can not access their office mail from anywhere else. So I was a bit worried when the book shelve was about to be exhausted and there was no word of my project being kicked off. I had talked with the IT manager of the administration by phone for several times but delays and obstacles seemed to be rather a rule than an exception.

As I came to my post last Thursday, I detected a brand new ADSL router on my desk. I called the IT manager and learned that the web connection was indeed up and running but the WLAN box and WLAN adapters for the two computers would not come so soon. I did, however, connect one of the old computers to the web using the existing ethernet card and installed Ubuntu in it. I also installed and configured some software and intended to do the same with the other computer the day after.

As i came in the following day, I detected that I was unable to proceed with the project. The WLAN box had arrived and the ADSL router was well hidden somewhere under the surface of the wall. Alas, the house had a wireless network but no hardware to connect to it. There was also a reprimanding message for me saying that connecting to the Internet direct through the ADSL router was inappropriate.

At that point I was less than amused. I decided that whatever is going to happen with the bureaucracy, I for one was going to ensure that I have access to the web at work. I started browsing laptop ads and found somewhat of a bargain yesterday as I was in what my friend Peter would call a Männerladen.

Open source is not particularly popular around here. Many people who would not know what to do with Windows Vista must absolutely have it. It is as important as having a cooler car than their neighbour. Which is why it is by now almost impossible to find laptops in stores here with a pre installed XP. The dealers just want to get rid of them.

So I bought a basic laptop yesterday for 450 €. It is a HP Compaq nx6310 notebook with 512 Mb of RAM and 60 GB hard drive. And a preinstalled Windows XP.

So this afternoon before and during my working hours, I was pretty much occupied with adjusting the laptop. I even posted a short note into my Estonian blog. The WLAN connection seemed to be almost as fast as mine at home. That will no doubt change if several people are going to be on line simultaneously but for now I am happy with it.

I installed Ubuntu 7.04 onto the laptop and have quite a bit of configuring to do. It is early to say anything about whether or not 7-04 is better or worse than 6.06 which is running in my desktop. I am going to let the XP partition stay as well, at least for some time. It is probably going to take a while before I am going to be able to put my webcam to work under Ubuntu 7.04. And the latest Windows version of Skype has lots of bells and whisles that we Linux people still dream about. Stuff like video calls and Skypecasts.

The funny thing with bureaucracy is that it is mostly slow and sleepish but it may once in a while surprise you with unforeseen velocity. The computer project at my job has been planned for nearly two years after the decision was formally made. As I went to my post yesterday, for the first time with my own laptop, two WLAN adapters were waiting for me on the table.

The customer computers are supposed to be available for the general public some time in the autumn. Since I am going to work all weekend with no bureaucrats present, I thought I could just as well get over with the installation and configuring by Monday morning. There will be nobody to stop me or interfere with directives. And then we are going to have two computers ready for customers who will probably be allowed to use them three months later.

Taking a break

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 at 21:11 | Posted in Bureaucracy, Personal, tallinn | 3 Comments

Schrottie complains that his paper work has piled up. I can only offer my sympathy but not the help he requests. I am struggling with the same problem as he is.

Last week my internet service provider sent me an offer (printed on paper!) to upgrade my connection to 2 MB. I thought the price they were asking, 29,90 € a month, was pretty decent so I sent them an inquiry yesterday morning. I happen to think that a simple question e-mailed in the morning should be answered during business hours the same day. Since I have not heard a word from them tonight, two business days after I e-mailed them, I must conclude that they either do not read their mail or they just do not want my money. Either way, they are just acting plain stupid.

Talking about money, I am not making enough of it for a long time. Rather than just wining about it, I am starting on a part time job after the Easter holidays. Which is why I have been busy with a pile of paper work these last days. Signing the contract, going to the tax office, filling in forms with my trade union and all that bureaucratic stuff have really sucked the juice out of me. So I have enough as it is, I do not need this bullshit from the ISP.

I have now done the absolutely inevitable part of my paper work. The rest is just going to have to wait for a while. One can only do so much at the time.

I’ll sail off to Tallinn for a couple of days tomorrow. Apart from seeing good friends in a pub with no name I am going to attend the annual meeting of the Estonian Journalist Union on Thursday which is just as much a pleasure as it is business.

Everybody needs a break once in a while and this looks like the right time to take one. I’ll still have all the time in the World to hate the paper work. It is not going away while I am.

No smoking at computer

Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 18:41 | Posted in Bureaucracy, computer, eu, health, smoking | Leave a comment
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Peter writes about a fresh EU proposal to ban smoking while using a computer. An alternative approach could be banning sales of used computers. The ban is to ensure that no harmful particles in tobacco smoke would be layered on the inner surfaces of a computer and blown by the ventilator and breathed in by a non smoker who bought the computer as used.

As reported by several reliable blogs, the smoking ban has been prepared in secret and it took effect at midnight GMT today 1st April 2007. The chief of EU commission’s press and disinformation service, Ms. April Lügnerin, confirms that the pan European smoking ban was debated by the European Parliament in a closed session yesterday. As of today, smoking is prohibited in all spaces with a functioning computer.

If there is a computer in at least one flat of a housing unit, smoking is banned in all apartments. It is also not allowed to puff on balcony or yard because smoke could very well flow in to a flat with computer through an open window. To prevent infecting computers through breath, a smoker is not allowed to approach a building with one or more computers two hours after smoking.

The owner of a computer is under obligation to report possession of a computer to the landlord who must immediately declare the building as a smoke free zone. Municipal governments must hire breath sniffers to enforce the smoking ban. A sniffer is entitled to authorize a blood proof be administered to a person approaching a building with one or more computers to conclude if the person has smoked within two hours.

Violations against the smoking and approaching ban carry a fine of 1000€. The offender also has to compensate the cost of replacing all computers in the building.

Bureaucrats are cute

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 at 7:33 | Posted in absurd, Bureaucracy, Germany, internet | 11 Comments
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According to Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, German banks must pay a radio and TV license fee for their ATM machines from next year. It is not that they would start showing TV programmes to the clients who withdraw money from their account. It is because the ATM uses an Internet connection and as from 1st January 2007, any computer hooked up to the web is considered to be a device capable of receiving radio and TV transmissions.

Bureaucrats are cute allover the World but it definitely takes a German bureacrat to come up with something as crazy as that. Then again, bureaucrats in Brussels are also known for some cute ideas. Let us just hope that they do not have a web connection to Germany. They might want to copy this absurdity to the EU legislation.

via Christian in Vienna

Something rotten in Eritrea

Friday, August 4, 2006 at 21:03 | Posted in Bureaucracy, corruption, eu, Human rights | 2 Comments
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According to the BBC, the EU comission is considering to ask the Eritrean government to pay back 3 million $ which is the worth of EU’s food aid sold by the government. The government has apparently sold the food to finance a new “cash-for-work” programme which is said to be aimed at making the citizens less dependent on foreign aid. More than 15 % of the country’s population is malnourished and Eritrea depends on outside aid.

I wonder if the EU are reacting as harsh in the true interest of the Eritrean people or if the EU officials are just expressing their frustration over the fact that the aid has obviously been used in violation of the guidelines set by bureacrats. It does not of course help very much that the Eritrean government stubbornly refuses to discuss the matter with EU representatives.

Geert Heikens, EU’s ambassador to Eritrea, comments:

“I think it is inherent in the political system we have here in Eritrea,” Ambassador Heikens said.

“It is not a democracy. It is far from a democracy. You can say it’s a dictatorship under the presidency of President Isaias (Afewerki).”

There is no free press in Eritrea, nor any kind of opposition to the government. The government are certainly not used to any kind of demands of transperency of their actions.

This being the case, the motive behind EU’s food aid is probably not just humanitarian but it can also not be based on any real hopes of attracting Eritrea to introduce democracy. I think the real reason of the food assistance is a calculation that it is better for EU that the people are being provided food where they are rather than having them knock on the gates of Europe. The aid has been provided for very pragmatical reasons.

It is of course the worse thinkable insult against bureacrats to use any money they have granted to you in any other way than stipulated by the bureacrats. The comission must be aware, however, that they can just kiss goodbye to any hopes of getting the aid repaid. It has just vanished in the air.

In theory, the Eritrean government’s approach may even make some sense. It would indeed be better to pay the people for useful work than make them recipients of food aid and thus dependable on outside donors. But that would certainly not be possible with the lacking transparency and flourishing corruption in the Eritrean government.

Sadly enough, the not so good method of just supplying the food is the only way of hoping that even a part of it would actually land on the tables of the starving people of Eritrea. The only lasting help for the people could be provided if they managed to get rid of their rotten government. But that is something they would have to do themselves.

Pro bono by default

Tuesday, August 1, 2006 at 20:20 | Posted in Bureaucracy | 11 Comments
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Udo Vetter is sour about the extent of details and amount of work required to represent somebody in a case involving the bureacracy with unemployment benefits. With my two years experience (which was luckily over by 1st January 2006) as the president of a large NGO for the unemployed I would say that Mr. Vetter has been encountered with the everyday life of the unemployed.

And they just have to fill in those forms all the time. Pro bono. By default, sadly enough.

Too big to be governed

Sunday, July 30, 2006 at 18:53 | Posted in Alcohol, Bureaucracy, russia | Leave a comment
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Christian in Vienna refers to a Spiegel article that describes the absurd situation in Russia. Russia is certainly not the country you would first expect to have a shortage of vodka and other alcoholic beverages. But the Putin bureacracy has managed to produce just that.

The problem with Russia is that the country is too big to be governed efficiently. Local leaders allover the country – both political, business and racketeers of all sorts – bend the law to fit their own purposes. The central government usually causes more new and unexpected problems as they try to solve an existing problem by enforcing a legislation.

That is what happened to Putin with alcohol. What he wanted to establish was tackle the illegal sales of alcohol. As that did obviously not match the interests of local pezzonovanti, it all resulted in a shortage of legal booze.

Russia has never experienced anything even resembling democracy as we know it and probably never will. There has also never been a proper rule of law in Russia. You can not even write a parody about Russia because the country itself is a big parody.

Christian pointed out that Russia without alcohol is like England without tea, USA without guns and ammunition, Germany without beer and bureacracy or Austria without coffee. May I add that it would also be like Finland without sauna? If Finns were unable to go to sauna legally, they would certainly do it illegally. Just as the Russians get their vodka either legally or illegally.

A week of reality

Saturday, July 22, 2006 at 11:50 | Posted in Bureaucracy, eu | Leave a comment
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Günter Verheugen, the Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Enterprise and Industry, is sending 350 senior EU bureaucrats out to small and medium size businesses to get a week of “Enterprize Experience”, Jyllands-Posten writes. 50 senior civil servants should attend the programme by the end of this year and by 2009 all 350 bureaucrats in EU’s Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry should have had their week in the real life.

Political consultant Søren Friis of the Danish Trade and Service employers is going to help find Danish businesses to accomodate some of the bureaucrats.

The purpose of the programme is said to give the EU bureaucrats a chance to understand the real problems of the businesses. But what if they will find out that they are the problem?

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