Lauren Duca humbly presents…

Chris Cillizza, formerly of the Washington Post, presently of CNN, eternally a buffoon, wrote today that he thought Trump’s United Nations address was “much more poetic” than Trump’s prior speeches. From this, one can say that CNN wastes at least as much money as Cillizza’s salary & benefits.

(There are, probably, vile limericks that are more poetic than anything Trump has said. There are, with an equal chance, scribblings on bathroom walls more elegantly composed than anything thirty-something operative Stephen Miller has drafted for Trump.)

Lauren Duca, who would like more young women to write about politics, sees Cillizza’s remarks as an oppotunity to encourage others. Although I’m not much for the term idiot, in her observation about Cillizza, Duca’s on the mark…

The Spacing of Words to Come

The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.  After jumping over the dog, the fox typed into his journal using two spaces between sentences.

Over at Caffeinated Politics that there’s a light-hearted post about whether proper punctuation allows two spaces between sentences, or somehow requires only one space. See, Two Spaces After A Period When Typing A Sentence? 

This is only a topic because a few hidebound people insist, demand, and implore that all the civilized world follow their way.

In his post, blogger Gordon Humphrey comes down on the side of two spaces.  Wisely and well decided, I’d say – many bloggers use the same two-space style of punctuation.  (I’m one of them.)

There are probably a few reasons bloggers do so, but I believe it simply improves readability on the screen.

I’ve a mere hunch that those who favor one space are paper-centric, and pre-digital in outlook.

Yet, for those who insist on one space, and demand that all others follow their rigid approach, there’s this inauspicious trend – it’s not print but digital that will set the century’s standard of punctuation, composition, rhetoric, etc.

They may advocate all they’d like for the propriety of one space, but the future, I’m afraid they’ll find, belongs to those in the digital world who use two spaces.  

These holdouts might just as well become accustomed to a two-space style.

They may not like it.  Nonetheless, two-spaces will prove to be the spacing of words to come.

Steps for Blogging on a Policy or Proposal

For bloggers who cover politics, policy-making, etc., just as would have been true of essayists and pamphleteers in an earlier time, it helps to have a method to one’s writing.  In the paragraphs below, I’ll list steps one should take when approaching a topic.  

The steps are in a rough order, but in any method, one sometimes returns to an earlier step, or jumps ahead if necessary.

1. Read.  Often long before writing, there’s reading (and listening).  One reads the documents in a proposal, including contracts, studies, and other supporting materials, and listens to presentations on the proposal.  

Reading and listening are more than a study of a particular proposal; they are a reliance on what one has read before, on the topic but also on other topics, perhaps seemingly unrelated at first blush.  In the end, what one reads – if it’s any good – is a review of others’ recounted experiences and analyses.  

Rely on the sound foundation of the works of respected authors and researchers.  

2.  Walk around.  If writing about a place, try to visit it if possible. Maps may produce a poor understanding of distance, line-of-sight, and the influence of weather. Similarly, if writing about devices, try to find one, to hold it in one’s hand, to learn how it looks and feels.

3.  Write initially.  After reading and listening and walking about or examining a device, start writing.  

Sometimes, all that one has read or experienced will offer a definite opinion.

Other times, one may begin merely with a series of questions.  It’s rare that a significant topic inspires just one question.  Questions are both a search for information and an expression of prior, informed understanding.  

Publish your questions.

It’s not an exercise of due diligence to ask one weak question, to ignore the need for a responsive answer, or to fail to act after the vague answers one receives (or does not even receive).  Asking a question and doing nothing after getting no answer or a poor answer isn’t an exercise in accountability, but instead an abdication of it.

Politics is littered with those who think that one tepid question is enough, and that the mere asking somehow fulfills one’s duty.  America did not become a great and advanced republic through timid political and scientific inquiry.

4.  Informal requests to officials.  If you’ve a few questions you’d like to ask directly, do so with an announcement of those same questions to your readers.

It’s a mistake to think that private conversations with officials will advance blogging on public issues.  (See, as an example, mention in FREE WHITEWATER from 11.6.13 letting readers know that I would be asking Whitewater’s city manager about particular documents.)

Private discussions always run the risk of being manipulated to officials’ advantage.  If one would like to be a tool or toad of government, then one can always join a fish-wrap community newspaper, where every day is an exercise in sycophancy.  

5.  Formal requests.  If an inquiry demands a public records request under state or federal law, go ahead and submit one.  As with an informal request to officials, publish the full request online after you’ve submitted it.  Let readers see what you’re seeking from government, verbatim.

In the same way, publish what you receive in reply to your request.  I’ve come to see that it’s a mistake to leave a government’s reply unpublished. Readers should see the full reply.

Be prepared to follow up.  A reply will likely raise other questions.  Let your readers know those questions, including any subsequent, formal records request.  

6.  Litigation.  Never threaten what one is not prepared to do; don’t publish threats (of litigation) in any event.  

(There was an odd situation like this a year ago between two Wisconsin bloggers, where one of them taunted the other with the risk of a lawsuit.  It was a sorry affair.  The law is not a threat; it’s a defense.)     

When writing about a major topic, think – as best as one can – about where it might lead. Most topics, needless to say and thankfully so, will never be the subject of lawsuits.  For a very few, that might be a possibility.  

Consult with a lawyer if you have significant questions, about whether to obtain documents, assure open meetings access, protect a right, or advance a vital public policy.  Conversations on any of these topics will be between the lawyer and the blogger-client, and afterward addressed methodically with sang-froid, that cold calm that’s useful for success. 

I’m sure I’ve missed much, but here’s the general method, some steps to be repeated, others never to be reached: (1) read & listen (2) visit places & study objects if possible, (3) write, asking questions where necessary, (4) submit informal requests to government if seemingly fruitful, (5) submit formal requests under the law, (6) consult an attorney for advice on rights under the law or limitations on government action.   

Having a method for blogging on policy makes writing better for both blogger and readers. It’s as simple as that.

27th Annual Wisconsin Troopers’ Association Art & Essay Contest

The 27th Annual Wisconsin Troopers’ Art & Essay Contest is accepting entries through February 15th.

I have included the contest rules and an entry form immediately below. The forms are available for downloading and printing.

Best of luck to all contestants.

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