Spectacle…

While the airwaves are filled with commentators, opinion makers, protestors, and politicians both for and against, the one certainty is that in just about 87 hours President-Elect Donald Trump is going to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United
States. Baring something unprecedented and Inauguration 2005.jpgunforeseen, he will be president, notwithstanding the calls of “not my president,” “not your president,” whatever. He’s going to be sworn and take office. Whether you voted for him or not, whether you find him appealing or appalling, whether you march in protest or toast the victory, this inauguration will roll forward with every bit of pomp and ceremony officialdom of the United States can muster.

Despite my grave disquiet at being out among large groups of people, I’ve attended two inaugurations. The first, in 2001 was the last staged in the era before “big terror” was an issue. The crowds came and went and security was the occasional glimpse of a rooftop sniper or mounted police officer working through the throng. The second, four years later was the first inauguration of metal detectors, fenced pens, and bomb sniffing dogs. The contrast couldn’t have been more stark.

I can’t imagine a circumstance where I’ll ever attend another inauguration in person. I’ve not got enough patience now for the crowds or the five hundred yard wait to process through security. Sill, though, it’s one of those uniquely American experience I’m glad I’ve had. Standing on The Mall, half frozen, the 21-gun salute booming in your chest, the simple and utterly remarkable act of a peaceful transfer of power, and the sense that what you’ve just been a small part of is something historic is a moment that sticks with you.

We here in this happy land may have thrown off the cloak of monarchy in our long ago fit of revolutionary anger. The inauguration of our president, though, is one of those rare moments in the life of the republic when we give ourselves over fully to the purely ceremonial; when we celebrate the office if not the man. It’s really something to see and an American experience worth having, regardless of party affiliation.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The Obvious. Headlines screaming “America in Deep Freeze,” or “Arctic Blast Cripples East Coast,” or “The Big Chill,” seem a bit superfluous at the moment. It’s mid-December here in the northern hemisphere. We’re right up against the winter solstice. For those who need it spelled out, that means for the next three months or so, cold is perfectly normal and should, generally, be expected. If for some reason the arrival of winter and cold weather have caught you off guard and unprepared, well, you’re an idiot. The fact that so many people are idiots, however, still does not make “it’s cold in the winter” a breaking news story.

2. Election Meddling. It’s cute that we’ve collectively decided that foreign powers meddling in a US election has raised the collective hackles of the press. Anyone familiar with their history over the last 200 years will tell you that we meddle every bit as much as the Russians. Ask the Iranians who ousted the Shah. Ask the Vietnamese about the Diem brothers. Ask any number of Latin American countries about our “helpful” deployment of Marines to ensure their elections turned out the way we wanted them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as angry about Russian interference as anyone, but for us to pretend we don’t do the exact same thing everywhere else on the planet is the height of hypocrisy.

3. Competing priorities. Given the lack of guidance I currently operate under, I’m put in a position where I have to make decisions about what problems get my attention and which ones don’t. I imagine I get it right more often than not (but that’s a complete guess since feedback is also something we don’t do). So when you stop me in the hall at the end of the day and wonder why I wasn’t in some meeting I was “supposed” to be in, there’s fair chance that time got allocated to one of the competing priorities that appeared to be more pressing. I’d be more than happy to work the issues in any order leadership sees fit if they’d just bother to tell me the flavor of the day. If they are going to leave me to my own devices, I’d mostly appreciate not getting blind sided in those rare moments when they choose to care.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Week in and week out this space is reserved with near epic exclusivity for What Annoys Jeff this Week? As the only recurring feature of this blog and almost always the most read thing that ends up here every week, you can understand that I’m hard pressed to move it for any reason. I write that intro purely to highlight how strongly I have to feel about something to deviate from years long precedent. Fortunately, I also find this week’s issue an annoyance, but one deserving a post all its own rather than as part of a set.

In the wake of the election the memes have flowed hot and heavy from both sides of the political spectrum. The one that’s sat worst with me, though, is one that extorts Trump supporters to explain their vote to their gay, foreign, black, or otherwise non-white friends and then proclaims them to be bigots, xenophobes, and racists. The internet hasn’t done much for the fine art of subtlety.

Let me be clear on this: I cast my vote in the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump. He was not my first choice. In fact he was not even my second choice. On the morning of election day, however, he was the only one of the field of candidates with a chance to win that even remotely represented a slate of issues that I find non-negotiable. He also opens his mouth and often spews a whole laundry list of ideas that I find morally abhorrent.

I like to think that my gay, foreign, black, and otherwise non-white friends are bright enough to understand that I don’t cast my vote on any single issue. I hope they understand that the world is a complex place, far too complex to be governed by just one or two issues. I hope they If they don’t, my words here are wasted. If their minds are closed to any ideas beyond their own, likewise, these words are wasted.

I’ve spent the last eight years alternately condemning and supporting policy ideas put forward by President Obama. I spent the eight years before that condemning and supporting policies put forward by President Bush. I have every intention of continuing that trend beginning on January 20th when Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United State. If my thoughtful and objective analysis of policy issues isn’t sufficient to pass whatever stringent standards someone establishes for themselves and their circle, well then, I suppose I’ll be able to live with that too. I don’t now nor do I intend to expect my friends to think as one hive mind. If you’re my friend and that’s what you expect of me, I’m afraid you’re going to find me a terrible disappointment. Even so, I won’t apologize for that.

Election night prognostication…

So if you will all indulge at least one more post about the election of 2016, with polls a few hours from closing here on the East Coast it’s time for a little prognostication from your kindly local proprietor. It was a busy day today and I didn’t have time to do much reading or casting entrails or reviewing exit polling data, but that’s not the kind of thing that would ever stop me from giving you my two cents about what I think is going to happen tonight. To put it another way, my opinion on this is going to be educated rather than purely informed.

With all that said, you’re probably wondering what the election results are going to look like. Here’s my best guess of where things will stand once the dust settles and the last votes are tabulated: Hillary Clinton will be elected President of the United States. The Republicans will maintain a razor slim majority in the US Senate (51-49) and the House of Representatives will continue to be Republican controlled by a small, but comfortable margin.

In the end I think what we’ll find is that we’ve spent billions of dollars on this election season and absolutely nothing of significance will change. Washington will still be gridlocked. There will be even fewer moderate voices on both sides and the interminable bickering will continue for 25 months until the first voices start “exploring” opportunities to run in the presidential election of 2020.

That’s my best guess on where we end up when this long election cycle reaches it’s agonizing end. We’ll all have a few less friends, we’ll be a little more jaded, and politics will continue as usual. Ain’t that a kick in the head?

Election Eve in America, or I’ll never see the day…

Well, it’s once again election eve in America. The importance of election day as a single day of civic duty has been mitigated somewhat by new laws that allow early voting. In many places, the election has been on us for weeks now already. I’ve voted absentee from time to time, but whenever it has been in any way feasible, I make an effort to vote on the day itself. It’s just one of those quirky ways that the traditionalist in me makes itself known, I suppose.

I overhead someone today commenting that they were glad that it was about to be over. “Not even close,” I thought to myself. Even if there aren’t month long recounts, challenges in the courts, and general electoral dysfunction, we’re simply setting stage for four years of of political infighting as vicious as any we’ve seen in living memory. The extreme left won’t be happy until we’ve dug ourselves into a Socialist Worker’s Paradise. The extreme right, in the same vein, hasn’t shown any indication of giving up the fight to reset our clocks to 1856. There are a litany of means and methods determined minority on either side can forestall any movement within the creaking machinery of government. Now if that determined minority exists on both flanks, well, the stage is set for things to get awfully interesting… or awfully frustrating depending on how objective you’re willing to be as an outside observer.

Throw away the polls. Ignore the prognosticators. The only thing that anyone knows for sure is that when the last of tomorrow’s presidential votes is tabulated the party that’s left on the outside looking in while resist mightily at every step. That’s the nature of the beast we’ve created – and as long as we as an electorate steadfastly refuse to accept any more than two major political parties it’s the beast we’re stuck with.

The good news is that there aren’t likely to be tanks in the streets tomorrow night. Cities probably aren’t going to burn. The bad news is that we’re going to finish the night even more divided than ever. The pol who figures out a way to crack the code on that is going to roll into office with a mandate like no other… but I’m not holding my breath on seeing that day.

Just an idealist…

The push is on by all the parties to get out the vote. In the swing states it’s wall too wall advertising, phone calls, and door knocking. It’s one of the very few moments when living in a deeply blue state is a blessing. My vote for president may be worthless, but at least I’m not being bludgeoned by adds like the poor bastards in Ohio or Pennsylvania.

Getting out the vote is a fine thing in theory. or it is until I remember that the people these efforts are designed to bring to the polls aren’t the ones who have spent months studying the candidates and issues. The last minute crush is designed to bring on the ones who haven’t made a lick of effort to education themselves. In all likelihood they’re the ones who stand in front of the menu board at your local fast food shop and look completely perplexed by their options. They’re the ones who get distracted by their radio and drive on the interstate exit ramp. If they’re not making up their minds until 36 hours before the polls open, they’re likely not the kind of informed electorate we want to believe we have here in our American republic.

In the last couple of decades we’ve made massive efforts to chase something close to universal voter registration. It’s probably a fine idea in concept. We’ve made such an effort to register everyone who can vote that we’ve never paused to consider if we should really want them to. It won’t make me the most popular kid in class to say so, but I’d rather see us spend some time making sure those eligible to vote have a little education first, maybe a few critical thinking skills, and then send them off to the voting booth. Personally, I’d be curious to see what kind of results we’d have if the electorate was educated, had a vested interests in ensuring the government was effective and efficient, and didn’t have a large percentage of participants whose only expectation was getting more free stuff while other people pay the bills. I’m just an idealist like that.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Storage options. Fifteen years later and Jeep still hasn’t designed a good place to stow a cell phone that’s both accessible and not prone to sending your device flying in a random direction when you hit a rough patch or tighten up in a turn. You’d really thinking that during those intervening years that kind of thing would have come up. I mean it’s not like people are toting around fewer electronic devices now than we did way back in the mists of time.

2. National polls. Can you please for the love of God stop citing national polls in talking about which candidate is up and which is down? National polls are worth less than the paper they’re printed on. Since we’re a federal republic consisting of 50 sovereign states, a district, and a handful of territories who are all responsible for holding their own elections, we don’t have a “national election” so much as we have 50+ smaller regional elections for national offices. Those are the results that matter. If you want a sense of who’s up or down, tell me what the breakdown of the states looks like. Otherwise I’ve got a solid recommendation for where you can stick your poll.

3. Kitten energy. It’s been a little more than eight years now since I’ve lived with a young critter in the house. The intervening years have left me with many pictures that remind me how utterly adorable they can be, but somehow my memory blocked out just how much energy they have… and the fact that they want to burn off all of it between midnight and 5AM. Even with two infinitely understanding dogs taking the brunt of it, the wake up calls as 12:30, 2:00, 3:15, and 4:15 are something of a struggle. It’s an awfully good thing the little bastards are so cute, because no one would tolerate them otherwise.