What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Training. A month or two ago I made a concerted effort to knock out all the mandatory online training I was supposed to get done this year. Generally, figuring out how to sign on to the system is far more difficult and time consuming than the actual training, but fine. Every week, though, some new ridiculous “important mandatory training requirement” gets added. Look, I’m a bureaucrat, I’ll waste an hour or two doing whatever the bosses decide is important, but could we at least pile all up so I can blast through it in a day or two instead of inflicting slow death by a thousand cuts?

2. “First Amendment” violations. I feel like I have to say this once every three months, but Facebook literally can’t infringe upon your First Amendment right to free speech. Facebook is a publicly traded company, not a branch of government. They’re free to do whatever they want on their platform – including flagging and deleting anything that doesn’t conform to the broadest possible interpretation of their established terms of service. No company is no more required to let you use their intellectual property as a soapbox than I am to let you stand on my front porch spouting nonsense. If you don’t like the terms under which Facebook lets you use their platform, the answer is to stop using it and find an alternative… because ranting and raving about Facebook violating your rights makes you sound like a moron.

3. Election 2020. We’re exactly two months away from the 2020 general election. I was occasionally checking in prior to the conventions, but with the ongoing tantrum throwing by candidates and surrogates, go ahead and color me uninterested. I haven’t missed voting in an election since I first registered in 1996 – and I have no intention of missing this one – but there’s absolutely nothing currently being bandied about across traditional, social, or alternative media that I find helpful in any way. Honestly, I can’t believe we’re paying good money for this abject fuckery.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The First Amendment. It’s plain that the First Amendment doesn’t mean what the masses on the internet seem to think it means. The 1st protects you from the government interfering with your speech in all its many forms. It means the FBI won’t come kick down your door when someone gets butthurt about something you posted on Facebook. By contrast this amendment has absolutely nothing to do with what a business such as Facebook will let you post on their platform… that you joined voluntarily and pay nothing to use. If you’re going to crusade for your rights, perhaps it would be helpful to first know what those rights actually are… because the Constitution nowhere guarantees your right to force a 3rd party to use their property to amplify your voice.

2. The Office of Personnel Management. It’s been 41 days since the bill authorizing a pay raise for employees of my Big Bureaucratic Organization was signed into law. It apparently takes at least that long to calculate what 1.9% of 2018’s pay tables were and add those two numbers together. And don’t get me started on the fact that if the legislative and executive branches weren’t both being led by children, that raise would have started showing up my pay sometime in January. Yes it’s allegedly retroactive, which is nice and all… but that also means the tax man is going to take a massive cut out of whatever check three or four months of retroactive extra pay eventually slide into. If only there were some parts of government who’s main job was formulating and executing timely budgets for departments and agencies perhaps this wouldn’t be such a difficult exercise.

3. Extraneous logins. I have accounts on more than one system at work that exist purely so I can log on to those systems once a week in order to keep my account active. I never have any actual work associated with those accounts and yet once a week I log on just to avoid getting an angry warning that my account is about to be disabled from our IT office. Like the old coffee can full of extraneous bits and pieces you keep in the garage, I’m told to keep these accounts active “in case you need them some day.” That this is how we do business never fails to stupefy me if I dwell on it for too long.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. First Amendment. It doesn’t mean what people seem to think it means. The 1st guarantees that the government shall not muzzle or punish speech except in the most extreme or dangerous circumstances. It means that government won’t stop you from saying any stupid thing that crosses your mind. It does not protect you from the consequences of saying that stupid thing, however. It doesn’t in any way prevent popular backlash against your asinine idea. Your friends are free to shun you. Companies are free to no longer sponsor you. Other people are free to call you a sanctimonious asshat. See, you’re free to say what you will, but you are far from free of the social consequences of stupid things that fly out of your mouth. Sometimes the right to speak is best expressed by using it to say nothing at all. More people should avail themselves of the opportunity to just shut the fuck up.

2. School start date. I’m perplexed at the at why the day public schools open across the state of Maryland is this an issue for the governor. I vaguely recall Republicans being the party of small government. And this is precisely the kind of issue that’s best decided at the local level. I like Hogan. He’s an iconic red governor in a blue state. But on this one I’m just wondering why on earth he’s decided to wade into this non-issue.

3. Quite frankly I’m starting a four day weekend just now, so there is absolutely no third thing that annoys me at the moment. There may well have been earlier this week, but now it’s simply faded into the background of a million other annoying things that I don’t need to deal with or in any way think about until Tuesday.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Moral outrage. When you give a television show to a bunch of self-identified conservative rednecks and then get bent out of shape when they say something conservative, I’m not sure you’ve got a lot of room for moral outrage. I have a hard time believing A&E didn’t know what they were getting when they hired the cast of Duck Dynasty. While I personally disagree with a lot of Phil’s philosophy, I fully support his decision to answer questions directly and honestly based on his beliefs. I guess maybe I’m just troubled by a world where a man’s thoughts and opinions need to be vetted through a staff of crack lawyers before he can say them out loud. I disagree with people almost every single day. Somehow I manage to do it in a civil manner and without getting my little feelings hurt when someone doesn’t subscribe to my belief system hook, line, and sinker. Life’s just more interesting when you’ve got people who challenge your assumptions about what’s good, bad, right, and wrong.

2. The First Amendment. All day I’ve been listening to people argue that A&E is violating the 1st Amendment by sidelining Phil Robertson in response to his quote in GQ Magazine. Here’s the hitch: The 1st Amendment was written to prevent the government from interfering with freedom of speech. That leaves private businesses largely free to hire, fire, suspend, fold, spindle, and mutilate their employees in any number of ways based on what they say and do both on the job and during non-duty hours. As long as the company acts in accordance with the law and any contracts in force, they’re basically able to do as they please. Now whether those decisions are good or bad from a moral or business perspective, I’m in no place to judge. In any case, timing it right sure can generate a hell of a lot of free publicity for cable’s highest rated non-scripted show. So just remember that while Uncle Sam might not jump up and stop you from putting your foot in your mouth, with your freedom of speech comes the consequences of that speech.

3. Being in charge. Being a supervisor was one of the biggest reasons I left my last job. Plenty of people have that skill set. Some of them even like it. I don’t on both counts. I’m ill suited to it if by no other reason than by temperament. Even when the dark cloud of supervision rears its ugly head even for a few short hours, I’m reminded intensely why I’ll spend the rest of my career struggling mightily to avoid it.

But not the others…

One of the worst arguments I’ve seen repeatedly in the gun control debate over the last six months almost always goes along the lines of: Well, you have to have a license to drive a car, so why not a license to own a gun? The thing is, the Constitution does not specifically address your right to transportation – by car, horse and buggy, train, air, slow boat, or on foot. Ownership of a car does not require licensure or permission from the state or federal government. If a 15 year old has the coin in his pocket (and his parent’s permission as a minor), he can buy and possess any car on the lot. Licensing drivers conveys the privilege to operate the car on the roads, not the “right” to own it in the first place.

Since gun ownership is a right defined by the Constitution, the more analogous argument would be in requiring a state and or federal license to speak publically. Since words are so often used to bully people and that bullying directly results in emotional and physical harm up to and including suicide, before someone is allowed to exercise their “right to free speech,” they should be required to take a four hour word safety course and obtain a license from their state indicating that they understand how harmful words can be. Perhaps we should also extend the licensing requirement to the right to vote, since elections, too, have real world consequences. In order to exercise your vote as a citizen, you should be required to show identification and pass an exam showing a minimum proficiency and understanding of the issues of the day. Since we’re free to abridge one constitutionally protected right, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be equally free to abridge the others in order to make the world a safer, more harmonious place.

As much as I hate to say it, for me it’s not a pro-gun/anti-gun position that’s the real issue here. I would be every bit as apoplectic if the state and federal government were trying to restrict the other right that I enjoy as a free citizen of the United States of America. The right to keep and bear arms is just the one that the powers that be have decided to come after first. I’m a good enough student of history to know that once one right falls, the others are all the more endangered. I don’t think I’ll ever come to terms with how people can love some freedoms, but not the others.

Big Mac knew…

This country use to know what to do with subversives, malcontents, and other undesirable elements who set up shop in our cities and made trouble for people just trying to do their jobs. One thing’s for sure, 80 years ago, we didn’t just turn off the electricity and hope they’d go away on their own.

On July 28th 1932, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, the 12th Infantry Regiment and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, supported by a column of Renault tanks commanded by Major George S. Patton, formed up on Pennsylvania Avenue. Thousands of people left work to line the street and watch. The protestors, who believed the troops were marching in support of their cause, cheered until Patton’s cavalry charged their position. After the cavalry charge, the infantry fixed bayonets and under cover of vomit-inducing gas, cleared the protestors from their makeshift camp on Anacostia Flats. Big Mac had plenty of faults, but he knew how to get a job done.

I’d give real money to see General Odierno and Colonel Allen go to work cleaning up the parks, town squares, and centers of commerce that have already been tied up for too long. If the Occupy Wall Street crowd that claims to be “peacefully” demonstrating continues breaking into public and private property, committing arson, vandalism, and violent acts, they need to be put down as the collection of common criminals that they seem bent on being. The 1st Amendment protection of free speech doesn’t mean we should allow a small subset of people to cause chaos on the streets of American cities.

We use to know the line between legitimate protest and creating a public nuisance. It’s a pity we’ve forgotten where that line is while we’ve been busy coddling everyone and telling them that they’re special and important.

And yes, in case you’re wondering, that’s what annoys Jeff this week.