He’s no Baron Baltimore…

I like having divided government in Maryland. For the last eight years it restrained the Democrats who perennially control both the House of Delegates and the Senate from relentlessly raising taxes unchecked and launching new programs for every wild do-good idea that someone in PG or Montgomery County pitches to them. Those moderating tendencies are also what kept the whackjob MAGA wing of the Republican Party from taking over the state and installing a treason apologist in the governor’s office.

But here we are now with the Democratic Party controlling both houses of the General Assembly and the governor’s office. It feels like a sure bet that it’ll once again be the season to tax everything under the sun – up to and including the rain that falls upon our golden shores. Those revenues will inevitably flow towards the urbanized counties while western and southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore will be politely told to sit down, shut up, and keep our checkbooks out.

I agree with almost none of Wes Moore’s political philosophy. From taxation, to guns, to his “social justice” initiatives, our new governor will be carefully calibrated to hit all of the Democratic Party’s sweet spots. That’s a strong departure from former Governor Hogan, who regularly annoyed the extreme right wing of his own party while holding moderate policy positions across his tenure in office.

On his inauguration as 63rd Governor of Maryland (not inclusive of our great and illustrious proprietary and royal governors prior to 1776), I wish Mr. Moore joy of the day. I hope he leaves the state better when his term ends than it was when he found it… but I suspect what we’ll see is a growing tax burden, excessive and onerous legislation and regulation, and governmental policy designed more around making people feel good than achieving any objective real world goals.

Catching my breath…

I had the privilege of attending two inaugurations in person during the opening years of this century. It’s an experience – one I’m glad I had when I was younger and more tolerant of crowds, necessarily intrusive security screening, and standing around for hours in the cold with no access to coffee and limited availability of restroom facilities. It’s a bit of unique Americana I recommend everyone do if they’re able at least once in their life.

Today’s inauguration of President Biden looked different, even from the toasty warm vantage point of my home office. As it turns out, during the Great Plague era, even pomp and ceremony ain’t what they use to be. I suppose whatever poor bastards were stuck planning the thing did the best they could within the confines of virus-constrained procedures. I’m happy beyond measure for their sake that the big show is over. The Treasury doesn’t have enough cash on hand to convince me to want their job. 

Here we are on day one of the Biden Administration. I could try waxing philosophical, but honestly, I’m just trying to catch my breath a little after the last two weeks, so I’ll just congratulate, again, our new President and Vice President… and we’ll just have to pick up with any necessary ranting and raving tomorrow. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The help. OK, so here’s the thing… There’s a point in the life of a project when it is no longer a good idea to throw additional bodies at the problem. Two or three months ago, when I started asking for specific assistance was the time to allocate resources. Ten days before the light turns green and this things has to work is not the time to offer up “whatever help you need.” In fact adding new people at this point is pretty much only going to slow things down and make everything harder to do. We have long since crossed the line of departure after which I will either be able to manhandle this shitshow across the finish line myself or it will collapse in a catastrophic and spectacularly public manner. There really is no third option now.

2. The National Capital Region. Loosely defined for my purposes as the District and the counties of Maryland and Virginia abutting the federal enclave, the area usually makes my list because of their abysmal ability to deal with even the most well forecast snowfall. This week they make the list because those feds operating in and around the NCR have gotten themselves a “free” day off tomorrow. I get the logic of not wanting a few hundred thousand workers coming into the city when a million or so people are swamping the place for the inauguration, but I want a day off too damnit. Back to back three-day weekends would have been perfect.

3. Due dates. Here in the land of making things more difficult than they need to be, we call due dates “suspenses.” These suspenses are what tells us how long we have to work on various action items. The idea is simple enough. The problem is the near universal belief that it’s wrong and immoral to send anything out “before its suspense.” The very idea seems asinine to me. My intent, every single day, is to get things off my desk and on to someone els’s as quickly as quality allows. Hanging on to stuff just because it isn’t due yet has got to be one of the most patently ridiculous things that happens on a regular basis… Which is really saying something because we are full to the rafters with people doing absolutely ridiculous things.

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. Lip syncing. If I were to make an eight hour recording of me sitting at the keyboard banging away at what I’m sure is some very important memo or PowerPoint briefing, and then push the play button on that recording every morning when I sat down at my desk and claim that I’m working, it’s fair to say that my boss would call me an idiot and tell me to get back to work. My argument that the performance was recorded “live to tape” probably wouldn’t be sufficient to convince him that a recording was a good enough substitute to actually doing the work live and in person. Not being a professional audio engineer, I don’t know whether Beyonce performed live, live to tape, or whatever. I’m not sure I really care all that much, but it strikes me that if your occupation is “singer,” it’s probably a good idea to show up and, you know, actually sing.

2. Dress codes. On days when the temperature falls below, say, 20 degrees, I think office dress code requirements should automatically be relaxed to allow for jeans, boots of sufficient size to account for wool socks, flannel shirts, and possibly hats with ear flaps. I don’t exactly know who came up with the idea that a shirt and tie equate to professional conduct, but I think it’s safe to say that can get just as many memos written while wearing Levis and Doc Martens as I can while wearing slacks and wingtips. I’ve managed to slowly ease out of wearing a tie, but sadly, my struggle for greater clothing equality against oppressive government rules continues unabated.

3. Medical science. I’ve got my next regular check up with my favorite should-have-been-a-Prussian-Field-Marshal general practitioner tomorrow. This will be the first of two visits this year where he tells me to exercise more, eat less, stop having fun, and that way maybe I’ll live a long and boring life. That’s fine. It’s his job and he seems to be good at it. Hopkins tends not to hire people that aren’t good at it, which is one of the reasons I’m willing to drive so far out of my way for a basic checkup. Still, what I really need him, and the broader medical community to do is come up with a pill or procedure that fixes whatever damage I manage to inflict on my body without needing to change my lifestyle and habits in any meaningful way. God knows I don’t have a death wish, but I’m not sure a world without perfectly grilled steak, penne pasta with vodka sauce, and the humble potato in its many pleasing forms is worth living in… and let’s not even get started on how many more productive and entertaining things I could do if it weren’t for spending time on a bike to nowhere every evening. Science just needs to get off its hump and come up with a way to keep us from getting dead with a minimal amount of effort from the patient.

Spectacle…

I philosophically disagree with nearly every one of the president’s major policy initiatives. I strongly supported his opponent during the election and I will continue to speak my mind here and to my elected representatives voicing that opposition. I think for a few minutes today we can all stop the rhetoric and look at what a remarkable moment an inauguration really is. When a president isn’t reelected, it represents a peaceful transfer of power, from one person to another, and often from one party as another. For all the acrimony in our inauguration-270x270politics, the fact that we can still manage it without tanks in the streets probably speaks more to the wisdom of the Framers than it does to our own clearly limited amount of national self control.

Even second term inaugurations are something special – an elected leader, a man we imbue with seemingly absolute power – comes before the people, and swears to uphold and defend the Constitution. We can debate how well or poorly he manages to do that over the next four years, but for today, we should simply agree what a remarkable feature of republican government that really is. Our leaders don’t swear to do a good job, or be popular, but to defend the very idea of self government. That’s heady stuff… but it’s our job as the body politic to hold them accountable for it.

Most of us never swear an oath to support and defend the constitution (though a few of us do), but it’s an inherent responsibility in or collective role as citizens of the republic. So, today, let’s enjoy the spectacle that is the inauguration of an American president. And tomorrow let’s get on with the hard work of being actual participants in the process.