Staring at the tree…

The U.S. Supreme Court generally clears the deck of all pending opinions before going away for the July 4thholiday. Typically, the higher profile the case, the latter the opinion is handed down. That means in the next ten days, we can expect to see new rulings on abortion, religious liberty, the environment, and the Second Amendment.  It’s enough to make a court watcher absolutely salivate with anticipation.

On the other hand, it’s enough to make me seriously consider proclaiming the month of July a social media-free zone. Regardless of how these pending rulings come down, public outcry will be equal parts intense, uninformed, and obnoxious. Responsible analysis will be tough to come by and will immediately be downvoted by partisans. I honestly don’t know if I’ve got it in me to sit around listening to so many people suddenly being engaged and interested. 

Being engaged is good and all… but not just on the big days. That’s just a recipe for people losing their minds as some kind of performative display of giving a shit. It means a whole lot less than paying attention when the sausage is being made. The Supreme Court rightly gets a lot of press, but 99% of law, policy, and regulation never touch their front door. If you’re focused only on those nine judges you’re staring at the tree and missing a whole universe worth of forest to your left and right and in front of and behind you. 

Sigh. Maybe if I just mute all notifications and just spend a month watching cat videos on TikTok the summer won’t be as bad as I’m anticipating. It really does feel like the ideal time to drawing up the digital drawbridge until people settle the fuck down.

I support personal liberty and choice…

A few months ago, I kicked around the idea of starting up a weekly limited feature focused on topics that some people might consider controversial, unpopular, or otherwise not appropriate for polite company. Nothing much came of the idea then, but it has stewed in my head ever since. This is the next of what I like to think will be a recurring series of Friday evening contemplations. If you’re easily offended, or for some reason have gotten the impression that your friends or family members have to agree with you on every conceivable topic, this might be a good time to look away. While it’s not my intention to be blatantly offensive, I only control the words I use, not how they’re received or interpreted.

Well, it looks like the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hand down a ruling this summer that will overturn 50+ years of “settled law” and precedent. On January 22, 1973, the court’s ruling in Row v. Wade found that the Constitution protects a woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion and that right could not be broadly restricted by the government. Associate Justice Blackmun hung his argument on the idea that such restrictions violate the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Blackmun’s opinion in Roe was further exercised in a number of subsequent cases to enlarge a Constitutional protection of personal privacy rights. And before anyone says it, no, a specific right to privacy is not mentioned anywhere in the text of the Constitution. The right to privacy, however, is strongly implied by a plain text reading of the 4th, 5th, and the 14th Amendments. The whole intent of the Constitution was and is to restrain the actions and behavior of government. One might say there’s a compelling national interest in keeping the various levels of government as far out of people’s business as possible.

The people are, after all, the font of sovereignty in this country. And on this particular issue those people believe that Roe should be upheld by a 2-to-1 margin. 

My position on abortion is consistent with my position on most other things. Don’t want a gun? Don’t buy one. Don’t want a gay marriage? Don’t get married to someone of the same sex. Don’t want an abortion? Don’t have one. See what I’m getting at here? Personal liberty = good. Jamming your religio-political beliefs down everyone else’s throat = bad.

Yeah, if the thing you care so desperately about doesn’t actually impact you in any way, just mind your own goddamned business. I have no idea why that’s idea is so hard to glom onto for 25-30% of the people in this utterly beshitted country of ours.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Texas. There was a time Texas was on my short list of places to go when I retired. I always enjoyed my time down there – mostly in and around Ft. Worth. As it turns out there’s just too much fuckery. A creaking power grid, rampant disregard and willful ignorance of basic public health, draconian laws to enforce extreme right-wing Christian “values.” Yeah. Texas could have been great but it’s turning into the rightist wackjob equivalent of leftist California. Hard pass.

2. The morality police. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), used to do business under the name “Morality in Media.” They think sex is dirty and want to save us all from impure thoughts. They’re the ones who recently took a run at OnlyFans and then clutched their pearls when sex workers fought back. There’s a long list of things they want to tell grown ass adults they shouldn’t be able to see or think. Now, they’ve apparently decided that Twitter is too sexy, because gods forbid that anyone should crack a smile if they see a boob or whatever. I gladly invite these joy-thieving, self-anointed morality police to shove their agenda directly up their ass. Who knows, they just might find a little thrill. 

3. Assumptions. Look, I make the functional, artistic, technical, financial, and any other type of decision you can imagine around here. No, I don’t need to run it past anyone first. There’s exactly one person that needs to be consulted about any household decision and you’re consulting him. I promise you, it’s a feature, not a design flaw… and I’ve thought through every single thing I’ve asked for from every reasonable angle long before scheduling the conversation. I don’t know what kind of dysfunctional people you’re used to dealing with, but I can assure you that I’m not one of them.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Rapidly shifting gears. I always forget just how steep the drop off in things to do is when a big project wraps up. Between last Thursday and this Monday I went from having 600 emails in my inbox and 47 missed calls on my phone to having a whopping 6 emails in my box waiting for action and no missed calls. For months there’s this gradual acceleration. It’s almost imperceptible. Before you know it you’re charging flat out, still accelerating, over the precipice, before slamming into the wall that is “business as usual.” I’m not exactly complaining that I’m getting a chance to catch a breath, but I am surprised more people don’t strip all their gears from downshifting so fast.

2. Housebreaking in the rain. Jorah has been a dream puppy as far as housebreak is concerned. Two solid days of rain, however, were something less delightful. Squishing around the yard every few hours in a steady fifty degree rain with wet feet is one of the joys of pet ownership that would surely make any dog owner question why the hell they decided to add a member to their family in the first place.

3. Playing bouncer. I spent a few hours this week checking badges and working the door to keep the riffraff out of a meeting. There’s nothing special about that – other duties as assigned and whatnot. I can turn off my brain and do as told with the best of them. It’s only later, when I put on my taxpayer hat and do some mental math about how much I made during my tenure as an up jumped bouncer, my eyes sort of roll back into my head. I have my own opinions of course, but I’ll leave it to others to decide on the application of resources… something something mosquito and sledgehammer.

4. Alabama. What the actual hell is wrong with you cousin fucking, backwoods, holier than thou asshats? Republicans are supposed to be the part of small government and minimal intrusion into people’s personal lives. You collection of assclowns would be hard pressed to find a way to be more invasive. At least when I think the government in Annapolis is a shitshow, I can look at your statehouse and remind myself that it could be worse.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. National Whatever Day. Yesterday was allegedly “National Dog Day.” Are you serious? There are somewhere between 70-80 million dogs in America. In 2015 the American pet industry as a whole is estimated to take in about $60 billion. Do you think we’ve somehow collectively forgotten about dogs? As if the 1/3 of American households who have them came home suddenly and wondered what this 4-legged furry thing was that greeted them at the door? Look, I’m fine seeing everyone’s dog plastered all over Facebook. If I can be frank, it’s a nice change of pace from the usually endless parade of baby pictures, first day of school snaps, and instas of what’s for dinner. Still, I think we can give National “Whatever” Day a rest.

2. The Wackadoodle Right. I read an article a few days ago wagging the specter of another government shutdown. Except this one isn’t because we’ve actually run out of (pretend) money or haven’t been able to pass a budget (or at least a continuing resolution). This impending shutdown will come because a couple of right wing wackjobs have decided that no government at all is better than a government that might accidentally fund an abortion. If I’m going to be thrown out of work, I’d appreciate it be for a reason other than a handful of politicians who think they have a “special relationship” with the Almighty. I’m not going to get sucked into a discussion on the virtues of Planned Parenthood versus the right wing of my own party, but there are enough actual real world dangers we can worry about to knock this one way down the priority list.

3. “Ten Years Later” Coverage of Katrina. Without grinding through the details, let’s just accept that Hurricane Katrina is a topic I know a little something about. I lived 1000+ miles from landfall and the bitch still consumed just about every part of my life for months. She’s also the reason I know the media are well and truly idiots when it comes to reporting the facts of a complicated story. Unless it boils down to a three second sound bite (like “Being stuck on stupid”) or lets them take a few jabs at a favored punching bag, they just miss the big picture. The moment that small portion of the story goes over the air it’s accepted as received truth, but it’s only ever just a very small slice of the real story.

Why the lion?

It’s hard to miss the social media mini-backlash to all the attention a lion poached in Zimbabwe has gotten over the last few days. Before I get my day started I wanted to chime in to answer the question “why do people care more about a lion than all the abortions.”

First, I don’t think the issues are mutually exclusive. It seems perfectly possible to me that one might be concerned about both poaching and abortion simultaneously. Talking about one doesn’t negate any opinion one may have on the other. The fact is, this country has been embroiled in the abortion debate for well over 50 years now – and like it or not, the arguments have become just more background noise to most people. It’s not “news” in any meaningful way.

Second, every discussion I’ve ever heard about abortion has been fueled by emotion and quickly descends into a shouting match between the two sides. Nether has proven particularly effective at making well-reasoned, rational arguments. When you charge into the issue from a position of emotion rather than logic, you almost guarantee I’m going to stop paying attention.

Third, and perhaps most important I’ve always liked animals way more than I like most people. We’ve covered that before. People, as a group, tend to be assholes. By contrast, lions tend to just be lions. So all things considered, if I have to spend the limited amount of time I have worrying about a species of 7 billion individuals stretched to every corner of the globe or one that has 30,000 in the wild, I’m going to defer my interest to the critters just about every time.