A warm bucket of spit…

Let me put the bottom line up front: Regardless of your philosophy, neither the Democratic nor Republican Party are your friend. That couldn’t be any clearer than when, 15 minutes after the Supreme Court announced their decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, both parties had fired off fundraising emails to their every-person-whose-name-ever-ended-up-on-one-of-their-mailing-list lists. To be clear, when the country needed leadership, the response from both parties (and many of our individual politicians) was “Hey, send me $15.”

Republicans have, since 1973, stated often and loudly that their goal of undoing Roe v. Wade. The fact they did it once they had the power to do so shouldn’t be shocking. They’ve literally been saying it to anyone who would listen for 50 years. Over that half a century, though, I can’t remember one single serious effort by the Democratic Party to enshrine a woman’s right to choose or bodily autonomy into law. Instead, they relied on the judgement of the court and used Roe as a never-ending fundraising opportunity. 

The Republican Party, stalwart defenders of the Second Amendment, have treated gun rights the same way. Given ample opportunity when controlling the presidency and having majorities in Congress, they inexplicably failed to legislate a national right to carry or even just to refine and expand the law to codify an individual right to self-defense. At every turn, though, Republican politicians have used supporters if the Second Amendment to fill their coffers. 

In their own way Roe and the ambiguity of the Second Amendment were the gifts that kept on giving for politicians who never saw a dollar they didn’t want in their own campaign war chest. Maybe I’m too cynical, but it seems to me that our legacy political parties are far more invested in keeping these marquee issues alive as fundraising platforms than in making sure it doesn’t take just five votes to undo one, or all of our rights.

So, I wish everyone would spare me with all the posts about Democrats rallying to defend the right to choose or Republicans defending the right to carry. Neither party is “fighting for our rights.” They’re fighting for their own self-interest. Plenty of individuals who happen to be Democrats are rallying to the cause of some of our rights while ignoring plenty of others. Plenty of individuals who happen to be Republicans are fighting for some rights while likewise ignoring plenty of others.

As for me, I’ll stand where I always have – shoulder to shoulder with anyone who seeks to advance the cause of liberty. I’ll support all the rights, because I don’t want a single one of them ever left to the whims of mere, feckless politicians. Maybe that’s the difference between me and those who cling to their label as “Democrat” or “Republican.” Our rights, all of them, are wealth beyond value… and our legacy political parties increasingly prove that they’re not worth a warm bucket of spit.

Detached from reality…

Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. It wasn’t a fact blatantly obvious at the close of election day, but one that became rapidly inescapable as absentee or mail in ballot totals were added to in person vote totals over the next few days. Certainly, by Friday of that week, the trend – and outcome was clear. I knew it. You knew it. The media knew it. The political class knew it. The overwhelming majority of American people knew it. 

Hard as Trump and his people might spin tales of election fraud, the claims were not reflected by the evidence – a fact that court after court found as one ruling was handed down after another, while other, wilder claims were thrown out as having no merit on their face. It seems that everyone except Donald Trump and perhaps his inner core of true believers was well aware of the state of play.

Bill Barr, in his testimony before the select committee appointed to investigate the January 6th insurrection, asserted that when then President Trump went before the cameras claiming theft and fraud, “he was detached from reality.” Let that phrase sink in. That’s a man who has twice served as Attorney General of the United States observing that the guy we’ve entrusted with the nuclear launch codes was having a hard time telling reality from make believe. 

I’m increasingly convinced that on January 6th we stood a hairs breadth from an American chief executive, gotten high on his own supply, refusing to leave office. How close we came to overwhelming the creaking, 200+ year old Constitutional safeguards that have always been more than enough to guide better men who held the office, is absolutely horrifying to behold. 

 If seeing these facts and patterns of behavior laid out now, when not caught up in the heat of the moment, doesn’t give you even a moment’s pause, I don’t have any idea what would. We got incredibly lucky that the American system, under incredible and unprecedent pressure, worked. We’d be well served to never run it that close to the red line ever again, because I fear being delivered safely out the other side had a lot more to do with luck than skill. 

Some thoughts concerning the bipartisan framework on gun control…

It appears that the United States Senate, in a rare bit of bipartisan effort, has cobbled together a framework for new gun control laws. As one of those people who will be stuck complying with whatever goofy laws the state and federal government come up, I have some thoughts on the issue. I’ll try to get through them in some kind of logical order.

I think most people who know me will be a bit surprised as they get through (most of) the rundown:

  • Clarify who must register as a licensed firearms dealer. This feels like a bit of a no-brainer. Clarifying current regulations defining who’s “engaged in the business of selling firearms” should make it easier to understand exactly what that phrase means and who needs to be in compliance in order to conduct that business appropriately.
  • Enhanced penalties for straw purchases. If you knowingly and intentionally purchase a firearm with the intention of reselling or otherwise giving it to someone who is legally prohibited from owning one, you ought to have the book thrown at you. I have no idea what percentage of total sales are straw purchases, but each one of them is an insult to every one of us who jumps through all the hoops in order to stay in compliance.
  • Closing the “boyfriend loophole.” Makes sense. If you’ve been convicted of abuse against your domestic partner – whether married, living together, or in a “serious dating relationship” – your propensity to violence or poor decision making is documented and the state therefore has a vested interest in limiting your ability to escalate that violence.
  • Increased mental health funding. Sure. Is anyone out there really saying that we don’t need to improve access to mental health in this country? I’m not going to turn this post into a brief history of mental health failures over the last century, but getting past the idea that “they’re nuts and there’s nothing we can do about it” is probably a good idea.
  • Enhanced school security. This one feels like something of a red herring. School shootings and “mass shootings” as a whole grab the headlines, but they make up a vanishingly small portion of overall violence in which a perpetrator uses a firearm. I mean sure, more security for soft targets is fine, but you’ll get more bang for your buck in getting people who commit crimes using a firearm off the streets and keeping them there.
  • Enhanced background checks for buyers between 18 and 21. Personally, if we’re going to make gun owners a suspect class, I’d say go all the way back and make sure the review includes juvenile records as well. Walking in with a clean record on your 18th birthday shouldn’t count for more than being a little felon as a minor.

Of course, there’s one bit of this proposed framework, that I’ll be watching with intense interest: Expanding red flag laws.

In Maryland, our red flag law takes the form of the Extreme Risk Protection Order and allows a spouse, domestic partner, dating/romantic partner, relative, law enforcement officer, or medical professional to potation the court to require an individual to surrender firearms and ammunition to the state and to refrain from purchasing new ones. It further provides the court with the ability to refer the individual for emergency mental health evaluation. Some states are more or less restrictive on who can waive the red flag to trigger this process.

It sounds eminently reasonable on its face, but feels replete with opportunities to be abused – by those who might file for an ERPO illegitimately, by an overzealous judiciary, and by the government agency that can continue to hold an individual’s firearms days and weeks after the ERPO has expired or been rescinded.

Unlike some, I don’t think these red flag laws necessarily violate any kind of due process expectation on their face. I do expect, however, that they need to be very strictly constructed and closely overseen in order to prevent them from slipping towards a scenario where those subject to an ERPO find themselves like those Americans who were incorrectly placed on government “no fly” lists with no recourse besides a faceless, shrugging, government bureaucracy.

Personally, if I were king for the day and I wanted to get after gun violence, I’d spend my time chasing better legislation to put violent offenders in the deepest, darkest hole that local and state government and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons could find. Commit a crime with a firearm and the whole world ought to fall down on your head. Instead, we continue to usher these individuals into the revolving door of arrest, incarceration, release, wash, rinse, and repeat… but that’s not the story that’s going to ever lead the headlines and captivate public attention, so we are where we are.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. My right foot. Last Thursday I noticed a little catch in my foot, especially if I were standing still for too long. By Tuesday I was walking with an undisguised limp. Here, now, on Thursday leaving my foot flat on the floor is an agony… and let’s just say I won’t be releasing film of me gimping my way around the house. I don’t mind being injured when I know what dumbass thing I’ve done to cause it. When it comes flying out of nowhere and for no apparent reason, though, well, that’s cause for severe agitation in addition to the baseline level of pain. Thanks to the internet, I know the general advice is to stay off the offending foot and give it plenty of rest. That’s probably a decent enough recommendation, but there’s critters to feed and a household to run, so the actual utility of that advice is marginal at best. It’ll either ease off or it won’t. If we’re still here this time next week, it’ll probably be time for professional intervention.

2. Hearings. In the summer of 1987, Congress held televised hearings about the Iran-Contra affair that featured then Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. I remember the hearings in part because they were a daily afternoon fixture on the television as I passed regularly from the pool to the kitchen at my aunt and uncle’s house in Fairhaven, where we were visiting at the time. It’s funny the things that stick in the mind of a nine-year-old. In any case, we’re about to be treated to another round of televised Congressional hearings. This time, they’ll focus on something far more insidious than anything LtCol North dreamed up. After eighteen months, much of the nation’s attention has shifted away from the insurrection and treason that took place on and leading up to January 6th, 2021. In my heart of hearts, I hope that these hearings are a forum to both shed light on and hand down consequences for those who engaged in, supported, or passively acquiesced to the attempted violent overthrow of the legislative branch. I fear, however, that it will all be used for hour after hour of prime-time grandstanding by everyone involved.

3. People. OK, admittedly, I’ve never been a fan. With rare exceptions I’ve found that people are more trouble than their worth. Over the years, I’ve developed a pretty reliable sense for those who make the extra effort worthwhile. That sense, as was proven this week, is not foolproof. In fact, that trust in my own intuition lulled me into a sense of complacency. In that complacency, I missed warning lights that should have been wildly obvious. From any other direction, when evaluating any other person, they would have been. It’s been a good long time since I’ve so badly misjudged someone… and I’ll be bloody well sure it’s even longer before another one slips past the goalie the same way.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Forty minutes. I overslept by 40 minutes. I know that doesn’t sound like much – and it isn’t in this work from home environment where I regularly climb out of bed two hours before I need to sign on for the day. It is, however, just enough time shaved off the morning to make me feel like I’m running behind for the rest of the day. So, sure, I’m marginally more rested but carrying around loads of extra angst while spending the day trying to shave minutes and seconds off everything and get back to baseline so I don’t feel like I’ve squandered the day when it comes time to lay my head down again.

2. Reminders. I have an appointment with my doctor on Friday. I know I have this appointment because when I made it, I tapped it into my calendar and set a reminder. To the best of my knowledge, even in the time before electronic, handheld calendars when everything was written on paper, I never missed or even found myself late for an appointment with my doctor. I’d even be comfortable extending that to pretty much any appointment I’ve ever made as a grown adult. If I tell you I’m going to be there, I’ll be there. On the rare occasion where it hasn’t been possible to keep an appointment, I’ve cancelled as soon as I knew there was an unavoidable conflict. My doctor’s office, however, seems to think I’m the most ragingly incompetent adult who has every shuffled through life. So far in the last seven days I’ve received three text messages and an email imploring me to remember that I have this appointment. I’m trying to remember that this is probably just a reflection of the general public being barely able to dress and feed themselves without assistance. Honestly, I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse about the situation.

3. The Gas Rebate Act of 2022. Proposed before the U.S. House of Representatives is the Gas Rebate Act of 2022. As proposed, it would send $100 to every American (plus an additional $100 per dependent) each month that the price of gasoline exceeds $4.00 a gallon. Maybe I truly am just one of the olds now, but I distinctly remember a time in America where we expected to need to pay our own way in life. That seems to have gone out of fashion with the bailout of homeowners who over-mortgaged themselves in the early 2000s and has only accelerated in the Plague Era when rent and mortgage payments could be suspended completely while Uncle sent out round after round of cash money “just because.” I increasingly feel like a real sucker – over here paying my own bills and seeing the obscene amount of money being taxed away every year so I can pay for other people’s goddamned gasoline too. 

Pure partisan fuckery…

I was born and raised in the mountains of Western Maryland. There are certain inevitable assumptions made when someone describes himself like that, I suppose.  I might have spent my childhood ripping and running on Squirrel Neck Road, but that doesn’t mean I feel any need to present myself to the world as some kind of backwoods yokel Gomer. I didn’t then and I don’t now. 

Based on a lot of social and demographic factors, I should probably be expected to weigh in heavily against the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill a vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s an almost mortal lock that I won’t agree with how she interprets the law or the opinions she would write as a Justice. 

The thing is, none of that really matters. The simple fact is Judge Jackson is incredibly well qualified for the job. Whether her judicial philosophy conforms to the pleasure of Joe Biden, or Jeff Tharp, or Josh Hawley isn’t particularly relevant outside the spectacle of a confirmation fight in the halls of the U.S. Senate.

Barring the discovery of some truly monumental skeleton lurking in her closet, the Senate should confirm her nomination and put her on the Court. To claim otherwise is the kind of pure partisan fuckery of which we’ve already seen far too much.

Wartime leadership…

If you haven’t seen it, take a few minutes and watch Ukrainian President Zelensky address members of the US Congress. The man displays more leadership in ten minutes than the Congress has shown in the last ten years.

https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2022/03/16/volodymyr-zelensky-congress-speech-ukraine-video-newsroom-vpx.cnn

Unaffiliated…

Since the face of the Republican Party today is Lauren Boebert and her wide-open orifice during the State of the Union Address, I’m extra pleased to announce that according to the confirmation email, I’m officially no longer a registered Republican on the voting rolls of Cecil County. 

With hucksters like Boebert, her fellow-traveler Marge Green, and leadership luminaries like Kevin McCarthy holding down the right wing of the House of Representatives, it’s hard to imagine a circumstance where I could ever find myself even nominally aligned with where the loud and obnoxious minority want to drag the party. 

It’s a pity that we’ve collectively lost the concept of having any sense of personal shame, because the behavior of Boebert and the other such sewer dwellers reflect nothing but shame on themselves, the institution they were elected to, and the nation as a whole. I know it’s hard to believe, but there are manifold ways to disagree without being a completely trash human being.

So, here’s to being politically homeless, or “unaffiliated” as Maryland is determined to call it. It’s far better than remaining unhappily in a party that seems to be determined to become that which it swore to destroy. 

The least they could do…

I’ll never turn my nose up at a federal holiday. If you want a holiday to celebrate or recognize someone or some thing, I’ll support you. Juneteenth? Sure. 9/11 Day? Yep. Kwanzaa? I’m in. Lunar New year? Sign me up. I’m happy to take any day off that the brain trust that is the US Congress wants to put on the books. 

I just wish a few more of them would fall between the middle of February and the end of May. 

Washington’s Birthday is always the holiday that hurts most, because it’s the holiday that leads in to the long slog through the spring of the year. In my mind there’s no worse part of the calendar than the stretch from Presidents Day to Memorial Day. It’s three months, a quarter of the year, or about 98 days, with nothing aside from standard issue weekends. Those weekends account for 28 days if you’re trying to do the math in your head.

I know, an extra day here or there doesn’t make a huge difference, but they do serve as helpful marks on the wall. If nothing else, they’re some small point of light to look forward to among the normal grind of spreadsheets, PowerPoint, and event planning. Sure, I could just burn off some of my own vacation days, but they just don’t feel as good as “free” holidays.

I normally try to struggle through the first half of the year without breaking into any of my own days. They make a nice reserve for the back half of the year, when the weather is better and I’m well and truly tired of everyone’s shit. Here in February, it means my normal early June tranche of vacation days still feel like something way out over the horizon. Almost a figment of my imagination. 

So yeah. Call your senators and representative and tell them we absolutely need a few more federal holidays in the mix. Since they can’t figure out how to pass a budget or do any actual programmatic oversight, it feels like the least they could do for us.

In continued opposition to right wing nutters…

A year ago we watched as conspiracy theory fueled, right wing violent extremist nutters stormed the Capitol after being egged on by then President Trump. 

Today, I’d be hard pressed to say that anything has gotten better with the exception of Donald no longer being able to use the machinery of government to circumvent the laws and Constitution. It seems a not insignificant percentage of the country still thinks that disgraced carnival barker is still the rightful president. About the same percentage think that the COVID-19 vaccines are a one world government effort to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids or some such abject fuckery. I’d expect the Ven diagram there to be a near-perfect circle. That would make fine fodder for a separate, but related, post on the price we pay for the rise of disinformation, willful ignorance, an America’s peculiar strain of anti-intellectualism.

If anything, I suspect conditions have deteriorated as positions have hardened. Little or nothing has been done to sure up the institutions of government, making it more difficult to subvert the peaceful transfer of power following an election. Baring something unexpected, we could even see Donald back again as the presumptive Republican candidate for president in 2024. A second Trump presidency reinforced by a sycophantic Republican controlled Congress is the nightmare scenario, because then all brakes, guardrails, and safeties would be off.

I used to think a terrorist loose with a nuclear weapon on the streets of Washington or New York was the worst-case scenario. Now I’m far more worried about the ring leader of a domestic terror movement seizing control of the government and all the levers of power that go along with it. 

Our Constitutional government is, perhaps, more endangered than it was when insurrectionists briefly seized the seat of American government and sent the Legislative Branch into hiding. Republican leaders won’t condemn the vile, treasonous creatures who lead, financed, and participated in the Capitol insurrection – but I will curse their names and memory for as long as I have breath… and I’ll consistently use my voice to oppose any and all who seek to undermine our Republic