I end up writing most of our blog entries. It's just the way things work. But Federal Computer Week editor in chief John S. Monroe filed this:
Writing an editorial is a bit like composing haiku: It often must convey complex and provocative ideas in a very small space. In the best case scenario, the limitations of the form (in the case of an editorial, 350 words or so, with a label and headline) force writers to be more concise than they would in normal discourse. They must distill their ideas in such a way that the final product seems complete even when it leaves a lot of information and thought processes unsaid.
Which brings me to the editorial in this week's issue of Federal Computer Week
. This little diatribe (subtly entitled "Procedures be damned"
) focused on a comment on National Public Radio
by a FEMA official about the importance of government procedures. The thesis of this editorial is simple: In a crisis, common sense should trump standard procedures. That seemed like a good starting point for an editorial, and indeed, it proved fairly easy to write.
But looking back on it now, I realized the editorial raised serious questions I could not answer in the small space allotted.
Many people would agree it was absurd for FEMA to require physicians working in storm shelters to fax in requests for medicine -- especially when those shelters did not have faxes nor electricity. But to what extent should government officials throw out their procedures? FEMA, for example, is already catching heat for awarding a slew of sole-source contracts. That wasn't necessarily what I had in mind when writing the editorial, but my thesis, taken to its logical conclusion, would seem to endorse it.
I am certain other cases of mismanagement and fraud will come to light in the months ahead, all of which will make me squirm -- or at least explain my position better. In truth, I do believe that in a crisis agencies must risk -- must be allowed to risk -- waste and fraud in the interest of saving lives. But I only wish I could have given my argument more nuances than the editorial page allowed.
Perhaps I should have tried haiku instead:
Don't let a man drown
While you crosscheck the invoice
Of a life jacket.
-- John Monroe
Posted by Christopher Dorobek on Sep 28, 2005 at 12:15 PM