Putting the US Budget in Context

In this weblog I talk quite a bit about the importance of context – how context allows us to create meaning from facts and opinions. Context is what allows each of us to evaluate information from a variety of perspectives, decide which angles are most meaningful to us, and then decide what (if anything) we wish to do or say in response.

Today in Washington DC, the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB) is debuting President Bush’s proposal for the FY 2006 US federal budget. I realize that sounds like a bunch of boring numbers wrapped up in posturing – and to some extent, it is. However, I’d like to use this as an exercise to examine how context can create meaning…

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Circumspect Blogging

Freedom of speech is a tricky thing, since speech and publishing (including blogging) can have all sorts of consequences. Whenever you’re concerned about possible consequences, that makes your speech a little less free. Reckless speech can cost you dearly. That tradeoff may not be ideal, but that’s life.

Yesterday, my good friend (and one of the smartest people I know) Dave Taylor tackled this thorny topic. See Who Owns Your Words, Blogger?

I mostly agree with Dave’s perspective on this. He wrote:

“If you believe that your place of employment ‘rents your brain’ for X hours each day, then it’s clear and obvious that when you aren’t at work, you can do whatever you want and write about whatever you want in a public forum, without the possibility of censure from your employer. If, on the other hand, you subscribe to the ‘I pay you, I own you’ philosophy, then your private time isn’t quite as private as you may think.

“I’m presenting this in a simplified fashion here for rhetorical purposes, but there are some serious legal issues that we’re touching upon. For example, if you work at a church but then attend pagan activities at night, can you be fired? If you believe that you can, then you’re falling into the ‘we own you’ camp, even if just a little bit.”

I think Dave’s right in terms of the objective way of looking at the issue. However, employment is a two-way street. Subjective perceptions on both sides matter – at least in terms of how the working relationship functions, if not in terms of absolute legality.

If you believe that your boss “rents your brain” for X hours, but you boss believes (consciously or not) “We own you,” well – there could be a problem…

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100 Bloggers: I\’m in! Now, What to Write?

I’m pleased to announce that I’ve been selected to contribute an 1000-word essay to Jon Strande’s forthcoming book, 100 Bloggers.

Here’s how Strande describes this project: “The purpose of the book is to push blogging further into the mainstream – to give people a taste of what blogging is all about and extend an offer for them to join us.”

Not a bad idea, given that the recent Pew report, The State of Blogging, revealed that 62% of US internet users do not know what a blog is…

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Zealots: Let Them \”Win\” (Online Vermin, Part 3)

(NOTE: This is an installment in my “Handling Online Vermin� series about addressing people with poor online communication habits. Series intro and index.)

Zealots: Members of this relatively rare and benign species of online vermin are generally fine until engaged on the topic of their particular obsession. A zealot’s obsession may be religious, political, social, technological, historical – in fact, related to any sphere of life or intellectual endeavor. They confuse their opinions and perspectives on this topic with “the ultimate truth.â€?

In any communication that’s even tangentially related to their area of obsession, zealots crave clearly marked boundaries. Uncertainty and gray areas unsettle them. They calm their deep fear of uncertainty by sparring with people who disagree with them. They may even actively seek out opposing perspectives in order to publicly counter or criticize them. When triggered, zealots are more comfortable with crusades or aggressive attempts at persuasion than with civil conversation or debate…

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