What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Home security. I’ve made a point to have an alarm system in ever house I’ve ever owned. Over the years and moving from house to house the systems have become progressively more complex, evolving from a few simple sensors towards something that’s constantly monitoring and able to show me the health and safety of the homestead in real time. In all my years of using a home security system, though, the only thing it’s ever actually alerted me to was various problems with the security system itself. It’s probably a good problem to have and I’m certainly glad it’s not constantly alerting me to real world problems at home… but I could have done with a little less time spent running diagnostics and troubleshooting earlier this week.

3. Better late than never. Ten minutes before 3PM, the powers that be expressed their concern about the weather and sent everyone home “two hours early.” That’s a fine gesture, of course, except that I would have had to travel back in time to take advantage of this generous offer. On my own authority I dumped in a leave request and departed the area at 2:30. It’s a safe bet to assume that I value my own neck a hell of a lot more than any of the aforementioned powers do anyway. My commute home took twice the normal amount of time and would have easily taken 3x as long had I waited around for others to make a decision and found 20,000 other people all trying to make a break for it at the same time. Thanks to the vagaries of the federal personnel system, though, even though I only took 90 minutes of leave and the powers subsequently approved a blanket 2 hours, I’m still out the 90 minutes I asked for because it was on file before the blanket leave was approved. Maybe it’s an even trade since I’m not stuck sitting on the road somewhere between here and there. Still, it’s just a helpful reminder that Uncle doesn’t put much of a premium on free thinking despite whatever lip service may be paid doing an “individual risk assessment.” That said, I regret nothing and will always use my own best judgement where issues of life, health, and safety are concerned – even if that means putting my money or my leave balance where my mouth is. It would just be nice if we didn’t play the same stupid game and win the same stupid prizes every single year.

4. Florida. I’ve mentioned the Sunshine State once already this week, but they can’t seem to keep themselves out of the news. I just find it mind boggling that all these years after the contested 2000 election any county in Florida has this much trouble counting little pieces of paper even when given the benefit of large and powerful electronic tools to do so. Surely if we line up enough Floridians they can account for enough fingers and toes to do the damned math, right?

Election month…

I’m old enough to remember a time when we had an election day in America. On the Tuesday after the first Monday in November everyone showed up at their designated poling place and voted. By 11:00 that night the results were reported on the three major networks and everyone went to bed more or less satisfied that the results were the results.

What we seem to have now is an election month instead of just a day. We have early voting for a few weeks, then we have actual election day, then the batch of ballots that someone finds unsecured somewhere, then there’s the inevitable batch of recounts and legal challenges that stretch out for God knows how long. It doesn’t feel like we’re making progress on this front. In fact I tend to think we’re making the opposite of progress.

I don’t foresee a circumstance that will take is back to a place where we all agree to just show up on one day to register our vote in the local elementary school, or fire hall, or church basement… but I think we should. We’ve overcomplicated the plumbing on what should be a very simple exercise of the franchise. We’ve over complicated it and everyone is busy looking for the perfect way to stop up the drain.

Sometimes the old ways aren’t better because they’re the old ways – they’re better because they’re just better.

You ain’t seen nothing yet…

There are approximately 76 million news and commentary sites you can go to today that are perfectly happy to drone on and on about what they expect Democratic control of the House of Representatives, a more entrenched Republican position in the Senate, and the host of other election results to mean. What’s going to happen when the 116th Congress is gaveled into session on the 3rd of January? Opinions will range from the president and congressional leaders finding some compromise on massive infrastructure spending to a wildly vindictive House leadership that will investigate the president to within an inch of his political life and then impeach him. On this Wednesday after election day, either one feels like it’s within the realm of possibility.

What’s really happening, though, is that across the country 435 current and elect-members of the House are waking up, smiling at their good fortune, and kicking off their fundraising efforts for the 2020 election cycle. Current and future senators will be doing the same thing, although some with a slightly less focused sense of urgency with their next election cycle as far as 6 years off. Political pros from across the spectrum are dusting off their presidential election year plans and looking for ways to fill up their war chests. Those with an eye towards the presidency in 2020 have already been building their machine, quietly, for two years or more.

Campaigns are never really over. There may appear to be a pause between one and the next, but that’s just because the news cycle focuses on something else for a little while – Firing an Attorney General is an especially effective distractor if you have one you can spare. The fundraisers, staff, and key volunteers who under-gird elections in this country are hard at work laying the groundwork for the next iteration of Who Wants to be a President.

If you thought 2016 was bad, or 2018 made you clutch granny’s pearls, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Election eve…

It’s election eve in America… and for most people who go through their day happily oblivious to the machinations of electoral politics, that largely means that the wall to wall TV and radio ads are about to give it a rest. At least for a little while. With partisanship cranked up to 11, whatever the outcome is will be sure to be met with a new wave of blistering commentary sweeping across social media. That’ll be fun to watch for a day or two, but it’s not the big story.

What I’m most focused on is seeing if our friendly neighborhood pollsters have managed to work the kinks out after being so patently bad at their jobs in 2016. The vote will be what the vote is, of course, but I remain enough of a student of political science to be academically curious about how we’ve gotten so awful at prognosticating those results in advance. I’m even more curious to see if someone has cracked the code on a way to make polling data worth a damn again or if the whole concept is one that’s been hopelessly upended by changes in technology, society, and demographics.

I won’t bother you tonight with anything trite like “it doesn’t matter who you vote for, just go vote,” because I obviously think it’s incredibly important who gets your vote. Instead, I’ll encourage you to educate yourself on the issues important to you. In my mind the only thing worse for democracy than an apathetic electorate is one that goes along with whatever their friends, family, or favorite celebrity say or what the ads tell them to do because they’re too lazy to do their own homework. Elections aren’t a time for blindly following the herd, they’re one of the few moments when standing on your own convictions actually matters.

Most problems in the world come down to people…

One of the things I’m not is an expert on the causes and tactics of terrorism. With that said, randomly blowing up people and/or things has never struck me as a particularly effective method of delivering a message or winning converts to your cause. Of course that’s relevant only if your intention isn’t to just get a little mayhem and chaos going for the hell of it.

We’ve got a bit of a history with sending bombs to our political “enemies” here in the States. Some few of you will remember names like Ted Kaczynski, Timothy McVeigh, the Weathermen from “recent” American history. There are others stretching back well into the 19th century and earlier depending on how far you’re welling to stretch certain definitions.

My point is, if you want to be involved in the process, be involved. The kid knocking on doors and handing out flyers in my neighborhood last night was involved. Want to make a difference? Do something that contributes. Want to be slowly be forgotten by history as a crackpot sociopath worthy mostly of being drug out into the street and shot like a rabid animal, drop a few pipe bombs in the mail and hope for the best.

A Maryland Republican…

I’m a Maryland Republican. In most places in the middle part of the country that would make me all but a Democrat. With the reliable rift of blue stretching down from Baltimore County through the suburban counties south of DC, Maryland is effectively a one party state – but one that allows for an occasional quirk of electing Republican governors.

I’m not the biggest fan of Larry Hogan. There are issues he’s given up on that I would dearly like to see him fight for – though in a state where the Democratic controlled legislature can overwhelm any gubanatorial veto easily, those fights would be barely more than a gesture. He’s actually done better than I expected and that earned him my vote for a second chance at the big chair.

Even knowing the long odds of any Republican running for state wide office here in the Old Line State, I schlepped to my polling place after work. In reliably ruby red Cecil County, there were plenty of races where my vote will make a difference. Unlike the state offices, for local races here at the upper edge of the Eastern Shore, the Republican primary basically makes the general election a foregone conclusion.

I’ve done my bit to make sure the state has a fighting chance of not getting lost into single-party hellscape of forever higher taxes, runaway spending, and increasingly invasive government “services.” Maybe we can’t hold the line indefinitely, but I’ve got another 16 or so years before I can bail out for somewhere where the state government doesn’t seem determined to be all things to all people so I’ve got to do what I can when I can.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Just one thing really. That one thing, the United States Senate. Those useless douchecanoes shut the government down for three days, accomplished nothing, and seem to be doing everything in their power to find themselves right back in the same position in a few short weeks. Funding the government is pretty much one of the only things the founders specifically called out the Congress to do. Everything else – including dreaming up their favorite political causes of the day are basically side business – and ways to raise money for the next campaign. For the entire length of my career – fifteen years and counting – they have proven to be incredibly (and reliably) inept at getting the job done.

In retrospect, I suppose I should have just gone ahead and pursued a career as a Senator… because apparently it means all you have to do is dick around on someone else’s dime and occasionally go on television and confirm to the public that you’re a blowhard piece of shit.

I’m beginning to think it’s not term limits we need, but a page borrowed from out parliamentary cousins. The ability to launch a vote of no confidence against the ruling coalition when they can’t get a basic vote passed feels like something we really should have in our collective quiver. Forcing the whole membership of the Congress to stand for a snap election after all sides have proven themselves incapable of governing would be even better. Sure, they still probably couldn’t get a damned thing done, but that would save us from having to wait for a scheduled election to experience the joy of voting them out.