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Ingratiating oneself with the interview subject, getting nothing back

<![CDATA[Here is the transcript of the first few minutes of an interview between Secretary of State Colin Powell and Washington Post reporter Peter Slevin. Note how they establish their shared recognition of the urgency for a new story (the "news cycle" discussion) and the palpable disappointment when Powell fails to step up with gusto to the story idea Slevin is pursuing. This is subservient journalism — read the full transcript here.
2003/1150
(10:30 a.m. EST)
QUESTION: Yes, hello, sir. Peter Slevin.
SECRETARY POWELL: Hi, Peter, how are you?
QUESTION: I’m very well. I’m very well. I’d ask you about your weekend, but it
probably already seems like a long time ago.
SECRETARY POWELL: It is already. We’re into a new news cycle.
QUESTION: Yeah, isn’t that always the way?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah.
QUESTION: No new news from Saudi, I guess. That always helps.
SECRETARY POWELL: No. They are, of course, dealing with the aftermath of it,
and as you heard from my wingman out there, Rich Armitage, it has all the
earmarks of al-Qaida —
QUESTION: Right.
SECRETARY POWELL: — and I think the Saudis will ratchet up their level of
activity against terrorist organizations. I think the May bombing, when I was
over there — I got there the day before that, it happened the day before I got
there — just happened to Rich this time. And they really ratcheted it up at
that point, and I think they’ll do even more now. I think they’re seized with
the reality of the problem that we have an al-Qaida problem, and it is not just
al-Qaida sitting there to do things elsewhere. They attacked, the regime, the
government, the leaders.
QUESTION: Yes. Well, on Marshall — I’m fascinated that — I really appreciate
you taking the time to talk about him. I’m intrigued that you have two
portraits in your office, one of Marshall and one of Jefferson, and I’m
intrigued by the incidents — the homework you assigned, which I have now done.
Tell me — tell me why you have those two portraits. Why those two people?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I must acknowledge that they were here when I arrived.
QUESTION: Okay.
SECRETARY POWELL: I cannot tell a fib.
QUESTION: Too bad.]]>

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Colin Powell's Rosy Memories of Latin America

<![CDATA[I'll just let this one stand on its own, without any further comments. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Power wrote an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle, which you can read in full right here. My favorite line is: “The other good news is President Bush’s intense personal interest in our own hemisphere. He is dedicated to helping everyone in the Americas who needs help.”

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Shilling for Big Healthcare

<![CDATA[The Wall Street Journal has a scary piece, very intentionally scary, about the “drab” hospitals and long waits to see doctors and surgery in Canada. Did you know that, just like in some American hospitals, some Canadian hospitals make people wait? The article goes on to say that the Canadians don’t adopt new technology as quickly, too. Horrors.
You’d think that since I live so close to the border the smell of gangrenous Canadian bodies would fill the air around here. But all I can smell is the paper mills from the Tacoma tideflats, and even that only on rare occasions these days.
The assumption in the article is that if the U.S. went to a single-payer system we’d fall into this same nightmare our friends north of the border are living in. That’s not necessarily true, since we may manage things differently and, since we are already spending far more than any other country on healthcare as a share of GDP, our single-payer system could stay right on the cutting edge while offering largely the same services, including innovative treatments, as are available today. We won’t know unless we try and why not try something, anything, since the cost of healthcare is still rocking upward. The difference would be that the decision to buy a device that would save a few lives would not be in the hands of the few people who could afford it (and, presumably, still would seek out high-end private treatment). Society might actually decide to save people with rare diseases on the basis of the fact that most folks don’t know whether they will get them — basically, that’s what insurance is all about.
The article goes on and on about the bad care in Canada, becoming “balanced” only at the end, when a Canadian heart patient rates his care as “pretty excellent,” though we don’t hear about the fact he is not facing the tens of thousands of dollars in deductible payments an American might after the same procedure.
By the way, Canadians and everyone else spend less on medical care and live longer than we do. What a horror show. Faced with a growing problem, Americans resist experimentation, the very thing that made this country great.]]>

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If markets are about perfect information, treat abusive practices like information pollution?

<![CDATA[John Reed, the guy saddled with saving the New York Stock Exchange from itself, has suggested a kind of superfund for paying back investors bilked by specialists who trade on their own accounts before acting on customer orders — the effect is that the specialists, people who act as market-makers for a specific stock, get the benefit of their knowledge a large number of sales are coming and can dump their stock first at a higher price. This is illegal activity, a violation of securities law.
Crime or not, Mr. Reed, who has a sterling record as the head of CitiGroup, says the firms that are guilty of these abuses should contribute to a superfund like the EPA uses to help pay for cleaning up polluted industrial sites. This money would be paid when the financial firms admit their guilt — back to self-regulation as usual.
Unfortunately, this whole idea hinges on the very people who committed these crimes going along with it. The Financial Times reports that Reed said in an interview: “If they [the specialists] are not willing to accept those [conditions], then forget it.”

“Yeah, I got your money right where I want it. In my fucking pocket!
I guess we can forget it, because few companies have demonstrated the willingness to admit they were wrong when it comes to pollution — what “right-thinking” financial services firm, whom we are supposed to trust with our money, will admit they are thieves?
Here’s what we should do: Throw the traders in jail and fine them in personal bankruptcy after a fair trial. Don’t destroy the companies themselves, since their assets are actually owned by the individual investors who put their money into the mutual funds. Just destroy the lives of the people who have made illegal profits with the college and retirement funds of ordinary people.]]>

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Same VC volume, same VC herding

<![CDATA[The National Venture Capital Association, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Venture Economics released the most recent quarter's venture investing figures, which were roughly the same as the previous five quarters. The growing sector in terms of attracting capital is biotechnology, which only proves that many venture investors follow a few smart ones, putting too much money into a single industry. Business software investment is actually falling, even as we hear all about the economic recovery, which may actually happen by the time an early stage investment made this quarter reaches product launch. Spread that cash around, spread it around. Portfolio theory has real merit, folks.
Here’s the spreadsheet in Excel format that details quarterly investment for the past eight years.]]>

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Smart Media Activism

<![CDATA[The Meatrix. Funny and filled with information people would not sit still to absorb in most circumstances. This is the way to use the Web for activism.]]>

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Bad Journalism 101

<![CDATA[As though he can't control the government, the Washington Post writes this lead about President Bush:

Confounding President Bush’s pledges to rein in government growth, federal discretionary spending expanded by 12.5 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, capping a two-year bulge that saw the government grow by more than 27 percent, according to preliminary spending figures from congressional budget panels.
The sudden rise in spending subject to Congress’s annual discretion stands in marked contrast to the 1990s, when such discretionary spending rose an average of 2.4 percent a year. Not since 1980 and 1981 has federal spending risen at a similar clip. Before those two years, spending increases of this magnitude occurred at the height of the Vietnam War, 1966 to 1968.

What liberal media? President Bush is directly responsible for this spending increase, because he defined the response to 9/11. He shouldn’t be let off the hook with word choices like “confounding” rather than “flaunting.” His promises have proven to mean absolutely nothing. He says what he thinks people want to hear and does what he damn well pleases.]]>

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Only half of Americans plan to spend as much this Christmas as last

<![CDATA[American Demographics reports that 53 percent of Americans are going to spend as much as they did the previous Christmas season. A third plan to spend less. I’ve been saying that the current factory orders and job growth is predicated on holiday activity and to be sustainable spending would have to increase in the run-up to Hanukkah and Christmas, otherwise business will simply shed these jobs and be stuck with excess inventory.]]>

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Freedom of the press belongs to those who can compile one

<![CDATA[Howard Greenstein and I have been wrestling to rebuild Correspondences.org, which was another victim of my server crash. The following is typical of our instant messaging of late:
AIM IM with hbgmsft 2:33 PM
Howard: we’re damn close to back in business on correspondences
Howard: thanks to 6 apart
Howard: I have to spend some time tonight putting back templates, etc
Mitch Ratcliffe: great — I finally got ratcliffeblog.com to come up. an hour ago
Howard: it’s so easy to blog, anyone can do it !
Howard: not
Mitch Ratcliffe: marketing — bane of our existence
2:35 PM
Howard: freedom of the press belongs to those can compile one
Howard: and you can quote me
Mitch Ratcliffe: that’s a good one….
Howard: give me XML or give me death
Howard: at this point, after working on this for 2.5 hours last night…
Howard: death doesn’t look that nasty
Mitch Ratcliffe: oh, I’ll take liberty and leave the XML on the roadside
Howard: XML is code for Liberty, comrade.
Mitch Ratcliffe: yeah, and we’re in the revolutionary vanguard, struggling to compile a little liberty
Howard: amen brother
Kudos to Six Apart, makers of Movable Type, for their generous help in our reconstruction efforts. Thanks to Howard for all his work on Correspondences.]]>

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Oriented in general or specific?

<![CDATA[George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, in there book “Metaphors We Live By” talk about the way our perceptions are locked into the metaphors we construct out of our experience. These metaphors are widely shared, such as “love is crazy” and “up is good.” They talk about groups where these metaphors are widely shared and it got me thinking about how people constantly feel they don’t fit in–whether for many reasons or one thing that eats at their sense of belonging.
I think the orientational metaphors Lakoff and Johnson discuss are more diverse within groups than the authors conclude. They write: “In some cases spatialization is so essential a part of a concept that it is difficult to imagine any alternative metaphor that might structure the concept. In our society, ‘high status’ is such a concept….”
In fact, there are many versions of orientational metaphors within any group, each derived from personal perception. Why, for example, are some people who are otherwise competent and confident, “afraid of success?” Perhaps because they don’t see the future as above and in front of them today, a ladder or staircase to heaven. If they are depressed or were taught to “keep your feet planted firmly on the ground and your eyes right on the ground in front of you,” the future may seem to hang over their heads like a sword or the “heights” may feel precipitous.
So, when we wonder why we can’t get a group to coalesce around an idea and take action, maybe it is because the metaphors the leader uses are not natural to some of the group. Is there a simple test, such as the question “Where is the future?” that we can use to begin to understand our peers?]]>