Bad Journalism 101

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.

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

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.

Freedom of the press belongs to those who can compile one

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.

Oriented in general or specific?

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?

New Server, New Blog — Changing the Pace

Gad, the last week-and-a-half sucked big-time. I can honestly say that I was probably the victim of solar flare damage. A friend of mine who runs a postal facility near my home said they are running without several systems damaged by a huge pulse of static generated by the flares, and that seems to be what fried my server’s power management unit. Seems to me that those flares caused more damage than the Y2K hype led to–watching the Sun for a few days there was like the run-up to Mount St. Helens’ explosive act, full of a kind of “what if it just snuffs us?” quality.

And, since I had to do everything over from email to Web servers, I moved mail and my old ratcliffe.com archives to a hosting provider and started anew with a URL suggested to me by several people who kept asking why, if it is called “RatcliffeBlog,” one couldn’t type that in to a browser and get there. It also lets me run one server, which is still entertaining and productive, since it justifies futzing with tech part of the time.

I have a new blog URL. This is the last change, I promise.

And I’m taking a slightly different take on the blogging idea. I’ve been writing longer pieces about things and that’s generated some interest in my longer writing, as I have several continuing discussions going on about doing that kind of “blogging” work for money. I like getting money for something I love and live to do.

So, I’ve decided to use this primarily as a notebook to let you see behind the curtain, under the rug and in the messier coves of my brain. For decades, I’ve kept big old journals. If we’ve ever had a meeting, you know the ones I’ve carried. But those paper notebooks never let me clip and save stuff as easily as the Web, the abortive attempts at printing and pasting items of interest notwithstanding. It will be a little more raw here. I invite your comments and thoughts. I hope you’ll contribute ideas so we can carry on a dialogue here, which is something no notebook ever let me do.

A few housekeeping notes:
* All of the old static URLs from the blogs hosted at www.ratcliffe.com should be working, though I know a few aren’t.
* I will not be responding to Richard Bennett anymore. No time to waste with such troglodytes.
* The IRC channel is back up, too. Drop by.

Concentration

Industrial society was organized along Napoleonic principles to allow one man to concentrate. Any interruption of Napoleon’s concentration was dealt with savagely, but it also yielded a Continental legal framework and, for a short time, an empire. At the same time, many Americans, though far from all, were able to work together, giving most of their attention to the creation of the United States, which continues today.

Because the Napoleonic system depended solely on the concentration of one man, it shared and amplified the flaws of one man.

The American experience is fundamentally different, in that it enshrined plurality as the vital characteristic at every level of government. Instead of amplifying the faults of the many, it minimizes the power of the few, giving the essential good in a people more opportunities to appear at the forefront of the society; we are guided by this goodness, which is hard to see in one person but easily seen in many.