What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Protocol. Apparently over the last week we’ve had royalty in America. The reason I know this is because on several occasions, I ran across articles written to advise my countrymen on the proper manner of bowing before the future English sovereign and his future queen. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Brits – their television, their sense of humor, and yes, even their quaint old fashioned notions of nobility… but here in the States, we’re citizens rather than subjects. On points of procedure for when it’s appropriate for an American to bow to the future monarchs of a foreign power, even one with whom we have a long and special relationship, the correct answer is simply “it isn’t.” We’re Americans. We don’t dip our colors and we don’t bow to royalty (or anyone else for that matter).

2. Sweats. In conversation many months ago a friend was shocked when I mentioned something about not having worn sweat pants since some time in the George H. W. Bush administration. She was shocked – possibly appalled – at my lack of concern for issues of comfort. In an effort to show that I do occasionally try something new, I picked up a pair recently and was duly impressed by their level of comfort compared to my usual Wrangler jeans. I supposed the biggest problem is I’m not exactly the type to go through the day just lounging about. Generally I’m doing something even if never leaving the confines of historic Rental Casa de Jeff. My real problem was what the hell you’re supposed to do with all the ephemera that usually ends up in my pockets – a pen knife, my phone, keys, etc. Sure, they were plenty comfortable, but I found myself trying to reach into pockets that weren’t there for objects that over the course of the day ended up scattered all over the house. As far as I’m concerned that level of inconvenience is too high a price to pay for a stretchier pair of pants.

3. The 113th Congress. The honorable members of the House of Representatives once again are spending the dying hours of a continuing resolution haggling over what amounts to peanuts in terms of the federal budgetary process. While no one is seriously talking about another shut down at midnight tonight it’s a possibility at the outside if they can’t find their way clear to passing a CR to cover the next few days while they rehash the omnibus spending bill before them. That they finish this way sums up the totality of this Congress nicely – even unto the end they’re collectively incapable of exercising one of the very few responsibilities entrusted to them in the letter of the Constitution. How very typical. Asshats, one and all.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Note: Usually this space is reserved every Thursday for three of the week’s petty annoyances. Breaking with that tradition, tonight’s post features the one big annoyance we should all be feeling. Tonight I want to talk directly to the blogiverse about the problem with claiming victory.

I’ve seen a lot of articles, Facebook posts, and general commentary claiming last night’s vote to raise the debt ceiling and restart those parts of the government that remained shuttered as a victory. Some say it was a victory for Democrats, others the Tea Party, others hail it as a personal victory for Senator Cruz. They’re all wrong. Last night was no victory. All sides who claim victory are celebrating over ashes – the ashes of dysfunctional Congress, the ashes of a more than $17 trillion national debt, and the ashes of our apparent inability of the great American people to govern themselves at all, let alone do it effectively. Last night’s vote was a failure of our politics, not a victory.

Eventually there will be an unavoidable reckoning that government can no longer afford to do all things for all people. The sooner we make the hard decisions about entitlements, government overreach, and a bloated defense budget, the sooner we’ll have a real victory… but that will never be achieved by men and women who are satisfied holding their breath, stomping their feet, and congratulating themselves when they simply manage to turn the lights back on and kick the hard decisions down the road for another few months.

There must be a grand discussion of national priorities – and nothing can be held off the table. The sacred cows of the left and right must be equally available for slaughter. We, as a country, need to evaluate the role we want government to play in our lives and in the world and then budget and spend accordingly. In his message to Congress on December 1, 1862, Lincoln states, “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

Lincoln didn’t save the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, the Tea Party, or the Toga Party. He saved the country. That’s serious work for serious people, not the work of the raving ideologs on the lunatic extremes. Still, it’s work that needs done. It’s work we must demand of those who claim to represent the people. It’s work that every American voice should cry out for today… that is unless we’re collectively satisfied with increasingly hollow victories and the slow descent of the nation to the status of a second tier power.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

I contemplated giving WAJTW a pass today, but it’s Thursday and 93 weeks of tradition are a hard habit to break. Without further introduction, here are the top three in no particular order:

1. Speaker John Boehner. The man who surrendered the Republican Party to the radicals. He has the votes for a continuing resolution that would clear the House with bi-partisan support, but he won’t bring it up for a vote because it would effectively end his speakership. 800,000 federal civilians could go back to work, the United States of America could have an operational government, and Speaker Boehner could have been a hero in the eyes of moderates. All he has to do is make up his mind that being a statesman is more important than being Speaker. I won’t be holding my breath.

2. The budget. Much like Congress, I’ve spent the last few days doing my own budget drills and deciding what’s essential and what isn’t. I’ve got my list of what needs to be discontinued and over the next few days I’ll be slowly turning those things off. When you see the blog no longer being updated, you’ll know that essential services like cell service and high speed internet are starting to get cut. I’ve been contemplating issuing blanket IOUs to companies I do business with. After all, if Congress can make people work without paying them, I should be able to do the same thing with the Delmarva Power, AT&T, and Toyota.

3. Waiting. It seems like a foregone conclusion at this point that we won’t be back in the office tomorrow. At least the weekend will feel like business as usual. The most frustrating part of the shutdown/furlough/congressionally imposed asshattery, is the waiting – the uncertainty about when we’ll get back to work, the uncertainty about whether there will be back pay, wondering if it isn’t time after all to start casting a line at other career opportunities. The waiting just plain sucks. I’m frustrated. I’m angry. And the real pity in all of this is that for a generation of good and loyal servants of the republic, morale and the feeling that what we do is important will never actually recover.

On leaving the party…

As of about 7:25 this morning, I am no longer a member of the Republican Party. The brand of Republicanism I grew up with – of small but effective government, of sound fiscal policy, of a strong national defense – has been shouted down by a wing of the party that seems bent on no government, fiscal policy based on brinksmanship, and treating the defense of the nation as a “nice to have” option. Add those failings to No GOPthe social conservative faction that wants to know who I’m sleeping with and treats privacy in general like an inconvenience along the road to a quasi-police state and I feel that I have no choice but to withdraw my support and my small voice in this nation’s political discourse.

Maryland doesn’t have an “Independent” option, so effective immediately I am registered as Unaffiliated according to the voter rolls of Cecil County. I’m not holding my breath that a party will come along that is moderate in its social views, sound in it’s fiscal policy, and strong in it’s support of the national defense. That use to be the Republicans, but there doesn’t seem to be any party or group that speaks to the issues that are important to me anymore. Both parties are too polarized to have room for someone whose views and opinions deviate that far from the extreme.

I’ve always crossed party lines to vote for whoever I believed was the best candidate. That we can’t expect the same approach from our elected “leaders” in both parties is damned near criminal.

What I would have told BBC Radio 5…

I had the chance a few minutes ago to speak to a producer from BBC Radio 5. He wanted me to come on air tonight and talk briefly about the budget, the impending shutdown, and what if feels like to be a federal employee under the circumstances. Now I dearly love the BBC and have since I was lucky enough to visit England in 1996, but the part of me that handles self preservation seemed to instinctively know that I my right to free speech is more protected here on my blog than it would be if I were speaking about anything remotely work-related to a foreign-owned radio network. That’s a pity, because I really, really was tempted to just do it BBC Radio 5and damn the consequences. Being the online attention whore than I am, I think everyone can understand why I would want to spend a few minutes talking to the friggin’ BBC, right? I mean just think of the untapped potential audience just there for the taking. Sadly, I opted not to go on air and talk about being furloughed for fear that I would say something that would end up getting me completely terminated. How’s that for irony?

At any rate, if I had gone on air, here’s what I’d have told the fine people listening to BBC Radio 5 Live this evening:

It’s been said that the voice of the people is the voice of God. Unfortunately the great voice of the American people, that wide swath of moderation that flows through this country like a river, is being drowned out by the extremists on the left and right wings. Both sides are equally bent on winning the argument on their own terms and both sides are equally wrong, equally damaging, and equally deserving of the scorn, ridicule, and eternal damnation of their countrymen.

Our republic has all outward signs of slipping hopelessly into dysfunction. It is no longer responsive or accountable to the people. It no longer has the consent of the governed. Tonight, I’m not a Republican. I’m not a Democrat.

I’m an American. I love my country. And I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed by the government that claims to represent me. 

I wish I would have had the courage to do the damned interview, because I have yet to hear a single public voice calling for moderation and compromise. I don’t imagine that mine is much a public voice, but for God’s sake someone, somewhere has to stand up and scream that this madness has gone far enough and must go no further.

 

Either or…

Yesterday, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) forwarded a memo to the heads of federal executive departments and agencies instructing them to prepare for a government-wide shutdown beginning on October 1st. Congress seems prepared to once again neglect one of the only specific duties it has by failing to pass a budget to fund the government into the new fiscal year. I only wish I could say that such asshattery from our alleged political leaders is surprising. I think at this point, I’d actually be more surprised if they could collectively manage to do something that was in the best interests of the country.

After enduring an ongoing hiring freeze, three+ years of frozen pay, furloughs, and no discussion of a plan to repeal nine more years of sequestration-driven budget cuts, an all out federal shutdown really just feels like par on this ridiculously stupid course. Add a dysfunctional legislative branch, an executive who would cut down every constitutional right in the book to advance his agenda, and an almost universally apathetic electorate, well, maybe we’re getting exactly the kind of “leadership” we deserve as a country.

On the whole I’m finding it more and more difficult to figure out if I’m a professional serving the world’s oldest operating constitutional republic or an extra just passing through an increasingly farcical two bit comedy.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Furlough payday. Holy balls. Even when you’ve run the numbers and have a good solid sense of what’s coming, no amount of tinkering around on a spreadsheet really prepares you for Uncle Sam reaching deep into your wallet and financially raping you. Repeatedly. A week ago, I was philosophically opposed to Sequestration and the resultant furlough. With the arrival of my most recent direct deposit, I’ve transition more into a mode of going out to the shed to see if I have a pitchfork and a few torches to spare. It strikes me that if I were alive and in Boston on December 16, 1773, I would have probably been heaving boxes of tea overboard with a smile on my face. It seems that although I don’t particularly like the rabble, I do enjoy rousing them.

2. George. While I would like to thank the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for naming their offspring in honor of my Tortoise, I am utterly vexed when it comes to understanding why the good people of the United States spent half a dozen days buzzing about it. If we were the United Colonies or a member of the Commonwealth, I could understand being interested in the birth of our President_Barack_Obamafuture head of state, but since we’re citizens and not subjects, I’m at a loss. How many other 30-something couples in the UK had babies this week? How many people in your town had babies? Know how much we all care about them? Yeah. We don’t. I say Godspeed to Wills and Kate, but knowing that they had a baby and that he will sit the throne long after most people alive today have shuffled off the stage is a sufficient report. There’s no need to get our collective nickers in a twist.

3. POTUS. When I hear the president on television talking about growing middle class jobs, increasing spending on education, and generally touting his plan to improve the economy, I only have one thought these days. That thought: WTF? As the head of the executive branch, the president could take one giant step towards improving the plight of the middle class by directing his Secretary of Defense to cancel the administrative furloughs of 650,000 civilian employees. Before he has any credibility on any issue that even tangentially touches on pay, benefits, and employment, the man needs to keep the promises made to the folks already working for him. What I think I understand so far is when large corporations load up on part time employees to keep costs down, it’s evil and wrong, but when the largest agency of the federal government does it it’s a prudent cost savings measure. WTF, Mr. President? WTF?