What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 23 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if 30 months of operating nearly exclusively through telework didn’t prove that working from home works. All this is ongoing while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. It’s truly a delight working for the sick man of the enterprise. I’m sure someone could make the case that there’s enough blame to go around, but since the updated and perfectly acceptable policy for supervisors was published 23 weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for failing to deliver for their members (and those of us who they “represent” against our will) and for continuing to stand in the way like some bloody great, utterly misguided roadblock. No one’s interest is served by their continued intransigence. The elected “leaders” of AFGE Local 1904 should be embarrassed and ashamed of themselves.

2. Tucker Carlson. According to Tucker, the insurrectionists who stormed through the United States Capitol Building on January 6th, 2021 were peaceful “sightseers.” I’m shocked, shocked, I say, that this well-known douche canoe would gin up a fictional account of the day’s events that just so happens to correspond to the schlock he’s been peddling in prime time. Yes, I’m sure he’s the seer of seers and prognosticator of prognosticators and not in any way a hack catering to the illusion he’s already created for his particularly gullible audience. By Tucker’s logic, if I go over to his house, kick in his front door, take a shit on his living room floor, steal some stuff, and threaten his family with grave bodily harm, I’m a “guest” and not a criminal. Make of that what you will, I suppose.

3. Utterly avoidable international incidents. Though lately I’ve been entirely happy as a homebody, there was a time I enjoyed the hell out of traveling. I did my fair share of visiting places both domestic and international. The thing is, I never went anywhere that the State Department listed as a “Do Not Travel” location. It’s all part and parcel of my policy of not being a dumbass American abroad. Once, many years ago in Mexico City, I found myself adjacent to some kind of march / protest / demonstration. I like to imagine what I did was more dignified than simply running away, but I do recall leaving the area in haste. It’s no business of mine what the people of Mexico choose to march, protest, or demonstrate about. Things happen, or so I’ve been told, but when you knowingly travel to places where violence is rife and then get caught up in a violent altercation, well, you can’t pretend to be all that surprised. It’s unfortunate, but entirely predictable… and also largely avoidable.

What Annoys Jeff This Week?

1. Tucker Carlson. Tucker staked out a patently absurd position on his Fox evening entertainment program last week. I know, I know. I should be more specific because most of his positions come across somewhere on the absurdity spectrum. I know it was absurd because some of the most serious thinkers in DoD responded more or less instantly to rebut Tucker’s asshattery. They’re not generally people who feel compelled to stake out public positions, except in this case, ol’ Tuck decided to opine about things that are, by definition, these particular leader’s area of expertise. No one “attacked” Tucker. They simply had the audacity to tell him that he’s a moron and explain why that’s the case. No one violated the damned Hatch Act. Having a professional opinion doesn’t undermine civilian control of the military. Differing opinions are only dangerous when you’re so thin skinned or your position is so badly placed that you can’t defend it rationally. In this case, it seems Tuck and his supporters fall into both categories. As usual, the “leading lights” of right wing kook media have left me embarrassed to be an actual, practicing conservative.

2. Higher taxes. They say Joe is working on a new tax bill and it’s likely to be the largest tax increase since 1993. I see lots of people saying they don’t mind paying more taxes. Good on them. With or without a higher tax rate imposed by the government, they’re free to send as big a check as they want over to the treasury. They can do that. No one would stop them. But it seems what people mean when they say they don’t mind paying more tax is they don’t mind so you should pay more too. “But,” they’ll argue, “it only applies to people who make more than $400,000 a year – the ‘absurdly rich.’” Right, I think, because every tax that ever was started out as a tax on “just the wealthy” until our political machine needed a few more dollars over time and the “absurdly wealthy” became most every working sucker in the country. So, please, write as big a check to Uncle as you’d like. Feel free to give of your own income until it hurts. That’s your right and privilege. I’ll be over here fighting tooth and nail to keep every penny I’ve earned and distribute it how I see fit.

3. I spent today doing exactly the same things that I did yesterday. I answered emails, entered information in a fancy database, and generally moved electrons around from Point A to Point B as needed. The only difference between today and yesterday was where I was physically sitting when I did those things. Yesterday I was parked in the sun room with two dogs snoring in the background and today I was in my designated cube with seven or eight conversations humming in the background. Plus, today added an extra 80 minutes to the day since I had to drive to my cube and back to do exactly the same things I did yesterday from the comfort of my home office. “But we need to have a presence in the building,” is the most patently farcical reason I can think of to justify the construction, maintenance, and daily running cost associated with a modern office building. The argument against remote working forever is effectively that we need to have people in a special geographic spot because we happen to have a special geographic spot. As far as I can tell it has absolutely nothing to do with productivity or whether the work in any way depends on unique geographic positioning.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Human interaction. Some people don’t get subtly. They don’t pick up on the social cues that the rest of us understand naturally. Occasionally that means you have to do things that under any other circumstances would make you seem and feel like a jackass… but when someone isn’t getting the message, sometimes that’s all that’s left. If that means I have to stand up and walk away from you mid-sentence, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not going to feel bad about it. I’m not going to apologize for it. As much as I’d rather handle it like a normal human being, I’m perfectly willing to be an asshole in the service of my own sanity.

2. The canonization of John Stewart. Stewart is a funny guy. I like the Daily Show. But I don’t get the left wing lionizing him for his take on Fox News. I mean does anyone not know they trend towards the right wing? I’m not sure that’s even a serious discussion. Like every media outlet, they have an agenda or an ax to grind. CNN, MSNBC, Sky, they all have their own brand of slant, but Stewart singles out Fox with glee as if they were the only ones pushing an ideology. It’s a case that could be just as easily made about just about every organization, everywhere. Then again, I guess it doesn’t hurt that the Daily Show’s viewers skew left… I suppose Mr. Stewart, too, knows how his bread is buttered.

3. Lunch. Turkey sandwich. Peanut butter and jelly. Ham sandwich. Turkey sandwich. Salad. Turkey Sandwich. Meatball sub. Turkey sandwich. Turkey sandwich. Salad. Ham sandwich. Peanut butter and jelly. As a cost cutting measure back in the dark days of the furlough I started packing my own lunch… but honest to God if I keep opening my bag and seeing nothing but deli sandwiches, salads, and wraps I might have to burn my cubicle to the ground. There simply has to be a better lunch than sandwiches, microwave “meals”, and leftovers. If there isn’t, the terrorists have already won.

Just the parts you like…

I’m about to break ranks with Fox News, and you know that gives me a slightly queazy feeling on the inside. Still, I’ve made a habit of calling a spade a spade with everything else that ends up on my mind, so it’s only fair to call out your friends when they’re being asshats too. For the last six months or so, Fox News commentators have been screaming for the administration to cut government spending… except for Defense. And the FAA. And Homeland Security. And Border Patrol. Look, I’m a registered republican and draw a salary from one of the departments that you’re supporting, so I have a vested interested in being a defense sector booster but I know well and good there’s plenty of room to cut if it’s done smartly (i.e. not through an across the board cut as currently provided for by law and certainly not just by lopping off a work day every week for the next six months).

For the last two days, though, where Fox has decided to make a stand is on the subject of White House tours. Seriously? Guided tours of the White House are apparently so vital to the long term health and welfare of the republic that they should be included on the list of items to be fully funded… It’s so important that it ranks right up along with funding the troops still fighting in Afganistan. You have got to be shitting me, Fox.

Oh, you say, it only saves $75,000 a week. It’s a drop in the spending bucket. And you’re right. It’s one drop. A drop that over the six months of this years round of sequestration would save $1.65M of the $24M you say the White House must cut from their budget. That one drop is a pretty good start.

Sorry folks, but the need to cut spending isn’t about what programs you like, or I like, or the sixth grade class from East Pignuckle, Louisiana likes. It’s about reducing spending in accordance with the laws that Congress passes and the president signed into law. If it’s a bad law, it’s only bad because that’s the way some jackwagon staffer on the Hill wrote it.

I’ll be the first to tell you that the way sequestration was written, it’s just about the dumbest piece of legislation I’ve ever personally seen become law of the land. But the national consensus was that we want to reduce spending. Guess what? That means some of the things that people like just aren’t going to get done anymore. You wanted smaller government? Just remember that smaller government looks like fewer tours, fewer soldiers, slower refund processing, and generally less of everything we’ve become accustomed to over the last 60 years. If you don’t like what it looks like now that smaller government is here, push to change the law, don’t just sit around bitching about what you’ve lost. The future is about priorities and if you’re not speaking up for yours, someone else will be happy to let their voice be heard.

I don’t need your Civil War… (we’ve got our own anyway)

Today’s 150th anniversary commemoration of the beginning of the Civil War got me thinking – which is generally a dangerous proposition at the best of times. The war is long gone, faded into blurry photographs and dusty history books, but the issues it was fought over are as alive today as they were when the first shells burst over Ft. Sumter. Maybe we’re not arguing over who to count as three-fifths of a person or the legal status of people, but we’re certainly still trying o figure out the role of the federal government and where national power ends and state or local power begins. We’re fighting our battles today with words and budget appropriations, but it’s easy enough to squint your eyes and imagine how such a fight could devolve into canister shot and gunpowder.

It would be too easy to think the United States grew up in the last 150 years. The Union, such as it is, still stands after all – But are we really any closer to being able to have a civilized discussion about the hard issues that face us than were our predecessors? Take a long look at Fox News or MSNBC and then answer that question.

Communist News Network…

Last week I was watching CNN, which is not something I usually do, but the hospital is too cheap to get a decent cable package apparently, although they do charge $10/day for using the TV. Lou Dobbs, who once upon a time was their financial guru, has been running a series of “special reports” under the headline “War on the Middle Class.” Now aside from the obvious political slant of the headline (Fox isn’t the only news channel with an agenda, people), the issue that I have with this particular episode was that it was decrying the lack of a federal response to the “home loan crisis” and calling for a government bailout of people about to go into foreclosure.

As someone who did my homework, read every page of my loan origination documents, asked questions, and bought a house that I could actually afford to make payments on, I am absolutely livid at the suggestion that the US government should subsidize people who either through stupidity or negligence saddled themselves with a mortgage that they could not afford. I used logic and financial analysis to make my decisions on how, when, and where to buy, so I am having a hard time digesting the idea that because I made good decisions, money should come out of my pocket to pick up the tab for those who made bad ones.

This isn’t a war on the middle class in America. This isn’t even the government offering aid to people who found themselves in harm’s way during a natural disaster or terrorist event. This is about people being kicked in the teeth by the free market because they chose poorly. It’s not my responsibility or yours to compensate them for their own bad decisions. Government interference in the market always has unintended consequences and the inevitable bailout of these people sets a dangerous and damning precedent.