Saturday, February 12, 2005

A Question of Type

To a bureaucrat, Richard Clarke's Jan. 25, 2001 Memo to Condi: is interesting on a couple of points.

First is evidence of scrambling to get the ear of the new administration, using any opening available. That's standard. It fits one picture of Clarke, as someone sharp, with sharp elbows, who pushes his position and himself. It's not clear from the press reports, nor from the fast read I gave his book, whether he's the stereotypical staff person, skilled in holding meetings and coordination, or someone who can get something done. (Note my biases--I view myself as the latter, not the former, though I held a hell of a lot of coordination meetings. The problem with coordination is that you end up dealing with human inertia, which leads to the second point.)

Second is that the memo is monospaced type, not proportional space. This is an obsession of mine. The tipoff that Rathergate's documents were forged was the fact that they were proportional spaced, rather than the monospacing typical of typewriters and most early word processors. It took the laser printer to make proportional spacing really feasible. So it's been 15 years or so--why is Clarke still using monospacing? (Proportional spacing not only looks better, it's more efficient, readers comprehend text in well designed fonts faster and better.) Answer: inertia. And the lack of competition to trigger a change.

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