What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Running out of time. Even as I grudgingly accept the fact that it’s necessary to work in exchange for money which I can then exchange for goods and services, I cannot quite shake off the feeling that I’d rather be safely tucked into Fortress Jeff with an endless supply of hot coffee and a mountain of books to read. Mentally preparing myself to go out and rejoin the world is, in a word, traumatic. It’s times like this I can see how one might just get suckered into the fool’s gold appeal of something like a “universal basic income” scheme.

2. January finances. As a professional adult head of household, January has always been a budget buster of a month for me. It’s the month when my biggest bills come due for the year – car insurance, home owner’s association dues, paying off Christmas gifts and travel expenses, the start of the winter heating season, and a few others. No matter how well the year is budgeted, January always comes around like a swift kick in the teeth and throw in one more large dollar item than I was projecting. It’s like the new year giving you a rabbit punch just to remind you that just because it’s a new year doesn’t mean it’s anything more than business as usual.

3. Congress and the president. If you thought having the executive and legislative branches run by the same party put the “fun” in dysfunctional, just wait until you see the magnificent shitshow that Washington devolves into this afternoon when Democrats assume power in the House of Representatives. To all those who scream “false equivalency” or who want to blame one side or the other, I’ll simply say go fuck yourself. A pox on both their houses. No one sitting in our hallowed halls of power is an innocent.

But her email…

New reports suggest that Ivanka Trump used a personal email address to conduct official business. If true, those reports are a problem for her and for the administration.

So here I am, a card carrying Republican, in defiance of what social media says I’m supposed to say, arguing that the allegations should be investigated. Hand the records over to the FBI and allow them to do their job. I expect the House of Representatives, under Democratic control in the next session, will also want to hold their own investigation. That’s fine. Conducting such inquiries is a prerogative of the House. 

That said, I expect Republicans to observe the same standards that they did in their investigation of Secretary Clinton in demanding a through search of all pertinent files. Likewise, I expect House Democrats to largely observe that sending emails outside official government platforms “isn’t really that big a deal.” If Republicans pass the buck, they’re negligent. If Democrats rail that personal email is now suddenly important, they’re hypocrites. 

Of course there are fine points of detail that the media doesn’t bother with – things like classification level of the email,  privately owned server housing classified material, whether tens of thousands of emails were destroyed before they could be reviewed by the investigators, etc. They’re perhaps esoteric details, but they matter in the course of deciding if something is a legitimate “big deal” or if it’s Washington-issued “nothing burger.”

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.

Reciprocity…

The House of Representatives has on deck this week, a bill known as the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act. This bill says, in part, that a concealed carry permit issued by a citizen’s state of residence must be honored by the rest of the several states. It imposes limitations on this reciprocity in the case of people who are not eligible to possess a firearm under federal law (felons), those who are dangerously mentally ill, domestic abusers, and those who have several other disqualifying factors.

Suddenly the Democrats find themselves standing up as the party of state’s rights and the Republicans are the party pushing for federal law to supersede the will of states like New York, New Jersey, and Maryland, so called “may issue” states, where concealed permits are virtually impossible to get for the average citizen. Given the way the law is written, as an American citizen residing in the State of Maryland, this bill, if passed, does precisely nothing to allow me to carry concealed either within Maryland or in any other state. It does mean that residents of Pennsylvania, Delaware, or the District could carry their firearm concealed into the state based on permits issued by those jurisdictions.

I don’t buy that this should be a state’s rights issue any more than I buy that argument when it’s used in opposition any other Constitutionally protected right – same sex marriage, for example. The Constitution should apply equally to all people regardless of the state in which they reside – and that’s why I have a hard time supporting the CCRA.

From my vantage point here in Maryland, it creates a condition under federal law where a resident three miles away in Delaware is allowed to exercise a Constitutional right that I, living in Maryland, cannot. The solution in this case isn’t to overlay the current patchwork of state permits with another layer of federal law. The solution is for federal law to recognize that all citizens, with limitations spelled out clearly for felons, the mentally ill, etc, have the same rights and standing under the Constitution. The solution is for the Congress to recognize the inherent right to self-defense found in the 2nd Amendment and clarified by the Supreme Court’s Heller decision and legislate accordingly.

My reading is the CCRA is a half measure that adds complexity rather than clarity.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Poor resource allocation. In the last three jobs I’ve had, my chosen line of work somehow manage to evolve into being an event planner. That’s not an intrinsically bad thing to be, but it does seem like a bad match to put the person with virtually no interest in talk to people into the role of setting up an event the point of which is to talk to as many people as possible. It’s just a bad fit. It may not be classified as torture, but if given the choice between life as a “wedding planner” and a good waterboarding session, just let me know where to lie down.

2. Highway robbery. According to the lady on the television news, ATM fees are “highway robbery” and having money “ripped away” just because she uses out-of-network machines is unfair. Uhhh. No. You’re paying for the convenience of the service, lady. If you think the fees are too high, maybe just go to your own bank to get money instead of just sticking your card in the closest slot. Even now when I don’t travel very often, I keep a small account at a bank in the area where I grew up so I can withdraw cash without paying $5 a pop for the privilege. Once I withdraw it, I replenish that account with an electronic transfer from my primary bank. I’m just going to assume what the TV lady really meant that she was pissed that she was being charged a fee for being lazy, not really for the fee itself.

3. The Republican Party. OK gang, listen up. How exactly are we expecting the American people to trust us to put up a presidential candidate if we can’t manage to get our own House in order? We’re the majority party. The election of a Speaker should be a foregone conclusion long before it ever gets talked about in the press. We’ve got the chance to put one of our own into what’s arguably the most powerful chair in legislative politics, but instead we’re showing the real life version of Dumb and Dumber. Do you imagine for a moment that Sam Rayburn or Tip O’Neill would have tolerated this level of jackassery from their members?

The big news…

While the Pope of Rome was busy stealing the spotlight, there was some real honest to God news broken over the weekend. Rather than dealing with another round of how stupid can Republican members of Congress make themselves look, the Speaker of the House is opting to resign from Congress and give up the office that stands him second in line to the presidency.

Speaker Boehner has taken massive amounts of criticism from the Tea Party wing for not being conservative enough – as if the Republican Party should have some kind of purity test for membership. Given my oddball 1960’s brand of conservativism that is currently out of favor, I’ve always given the speaker the lion’s share of the credit for managing to hold together a majority that gets anything at all accomplished.

As he edges towards the door, there was a nugget from his interview this morning with CBS Face the Nation that, more than anything else, tells me that John Boehner gets it – perhaps more clearly than any of his contemporaries. While musing on his accomplishments as Speaker despite the active resistance of the most conservative members of the Republican caucus, he offered this, “You know this is the part that I really don’t understand…Our founders didn’t want some parliamentary system where if you won the majority you got to do whatever you wanted to do. They wanted this long, slow press. So change comes slowly, and obviously too slowly for some.”

I worry that the next crop of candidates for the top job in the House won’t be so circumspect and will jam through an inevitably crackpot agenda no matter what long term costs might come.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Mobile check deposit. I learned a fun fact about my credit union’s new mobile check deposit process this morning. That little nugget is if you deposit a check by phone and the transaction doesn’t complete, there’s nothing in place outside of their website letting you know that something has gone amiss. No email, no text, just an envelope that shows up on their website when you get around to logging in. That would have been nice to know before going to the ATM this afternoon and finding the account dropped to a zero balance. I’m sure part of the issue is my insistence on using different financial institutions for different services and therefore using mobile check deposits to avoid transfer fees to keep money in motion, but still, I don’t think an email letting a guy know something went sideways or at least that there is a new message waiting on their website is too much to ask.

2. Suing POTUS. This is just one of of the many reasons I left the Republican Party (or maybe it’s really an example of how the party left me). The House of Representatives thinks they’re being cute by trying to drag the courts into the ongoing drama between the legislative and executive branches. The reality is a political solution already exists to remedy the Representative’s grievances. Of course they realize exercising that option creates nothing but problems for them. So basically what you have is just another example of my former party lacking the courage of their misguided convictions. I may disagree with any number of decisions made from the federal bench, but those judges tend not to be complete idiots, so I’ll be amazed if they ever find one to let this kind of asshattery move forward. Then again, I’m not entirely sure anything coming out of Washington can surprise me anymore, so don’t take any of that as a prediction.

3. Ebola. Honest to God, I can’t believe this is even a discussion we’re having in the 21st century. It’s even worse that there are reports circulating about a “special plane” owned by the Centers for Disease Control that could isolate and import ebola victims into the United States for treatment. I’m all for taking care of American citizens who find themselves afflicted in Africa. Import a whole damned hospital wing and treat them on site, but loading them into a jet and bringing them and their virus here just sounds like a ridiculously stupid idea. Surely I’m not the only one who thinks willingly importing a deadly virus into the country is a monumentally bad thing to do, right?