The limits of good intent…

I’m sure it was with good intent that the powers that be declared we would have a “Combating Extremism Stand Down.” The insurrectionist attack on the Capitol in January highlighted the obvious, but rarely discussed, presence of bad actors in the ranks. 

Our version of this stand down involves a mandatory 90-minute training delivered up by the most senior leader we could wrangle. That’s fine. It’s at least an official acknowledgment that some of the apples are rotten.

The thing is, getting after people who support insurrection isn’t best served by dragging thousands of people into an online meeting and rationally explaining that raising a rebellion is a bad thing. Most people instinctively know that extremism is bad. It’s this same approach that leads us to have a yearly meeting where we’re told 37 times that rape and sexual harassment are bad… and that’s sure done a legendary job at stopping rapists.

Preaching to the choir has its place, but telling people who are already doing the right thing that they should do the right thing doesn’t solve many problems. It hasn’t been effective in clearing rapists out of the service and I can’t imagine it will have any greater effect at luring out the extremist threat. 

If the powers that be are serious about scouring the place clean, there would be less talk and more smashing skulls. I’m not an expert, but it seems to me that rather than telling the insider threat to be nicer, maybe tearing it out root and stem would be a more effective strategy. Until extremists, rapists, or other’s who show criminal intent are fired, court martialed, hauled before a firing squad, or otherwise driven out, saying the words is fine. Raising awareness is fine. Just don’t expect that kind of minimal effort to get you where you want to be. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Historical context. Despite having featured prominently in an Obama Administration read across America event in 2015, Dr. Seuss is now, apparently, the author of racist content. The guy was born in 1904 and did his most prominent work in the mid 20th century. Expecting that his writing would reflect whatever ultra-woke orthodoxy is in vogue here in the 21st century is patently ridiculous. If we’re going to judge every writer who ever put ink on paper by modern standards, the allowed reading list is going to be awfully restricted. If your goal is to only allow approved, untroublesome content that supports your philosophical notion of how the world ought to be on your shelves, I suppose it’s a good position to stake out. Personally, I’ll go ahead and keep a wider range of books on my shelves. Then again, I’m not the kind of guy who’s afraid of a little historical context seeping in around the margins. Being shocked that people are products of their times and don’t exist in accordance with contemporary beliefs would be adorable if it weren’t so incredibly dumb.

2. The US House of Representatives. The House is closed for business today because of the threat of a follow-on insurrectionist attack. That sends exactly the wrong message. It speaks to fear and intimidation – that the rebels of January 6th were at least partially successful. Holding up the business of the republic out of fear of common rabble is nothing more than a missed opportunity. Better keep on, draw them near, and then crush them utterly. 

3. Taxes. I got my prepared tax return back from the accountant’s office this week. Seeing the gory details all there in black and white is just about enough to make me gag. As my favorite for instance, in 2017 the top 50% of income earners in this country paid 96.9% of all income taxes (with the evil 1% paying 38.5% of all income taxes collected). We’re not just taxed on income, of course. Individuals also face payroll tax, capital gains tax, property tax, a whole universe of excise taxes, and more. You’ll never convince me that the problem is that we’re not being taxed enough in this country. We’ve got a veritable orgy of spending that’s been getting worse regardless of what party holds the whip hand, but as long as votes can be bought with dollars from the treasury, I can’t imagine ever getting it under anything approaching control.  

Where’d they go?

So far this week (and keep in mind I’m writing this late Tuesday afternoon) I’ve been called a RINO (obviously), stupid, naïve, uninformed, and, of course, a sheep. That’s not even including random strangers responding to the “laughing out loud” emoji I drop occasionally on supremely ridiculous news article comment sections.

With the whole insurrection thing set aside for a moment, it’s intriguing to see where the MAGA-right has drug the Republican party. As it turns out, blue lives only matter when certain terms and conditions apply, the party is now in strong favor of government intervention in the free market, and law and order is out in favor of rioting and looting.

I think we may still be hanging in there on tax policy… Although the party’s position on supporting the military now remains to be seen. I’m assuming we’ll get evidence of that one way or another between now and the inauguration.

I’m standing where I’ve always stood, but honest to God, I have no idea where the hell the Republican Party has gone. At the 2020 nominating convention, the RNC didn’t vote a platform beyond “We support Donald Trump.” I honestly hadn’t expected them to adhere so fanatically to that single plank. Boy did I misread the room, there.

So, baaaaaa… or whatever. *Shrugs*

Preferences, party, and hurt feelings…

I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve cast out from my various social media friends lists because their response to insurrection supported by the sitting President of the United States and certain serving members of Congress was “Well, yeah, it’s bad, but the liberals are…”

That’s the most childish and ill-conceived argument I can imagine putting forward (unless you include the couple of Q-inspired, lizard people fearing, false-flaggers who want their absolute shitshow conspiracy theory version of reality given voice). 

“But,” they cry, “Biden is going to push policies I don’t like.”

Yeah. He is. The Biden Administration is going to push for policies I have spent my adult lifetime opposing with my voice and my vote.

Hard as it is to imagine, you can actually voice your opposition (or support) for something without laying siege to the Capitol or burning down your local Wendy’s. In our system of government, there is no legitimacy in violence. The two-century long tradition of transferring power between competing parties is an absolute miracle of American politics. It’s a tradition worth defending against those who would undo it in a fit of not getting their way at the ballot box.

Today, in the wake of an attack at the heart of the American political system, preserving that system by putting down the violent insurrection raised against it, takes precedence over everything – your policy preferences, your party, and your hurt feelings. 

You can do both…

I spent a lot of this summer calling out lefty “protests” that descended into the looting and burning of American cities as violent insurrection that should be put down swiftly with great force.

I’ve spent a lot of the last few days calling out MAGA “protests” that resulted in storming the Capitol and the attempted subversion of the Constitution as violent insurrection that should be put down with great force.

What we have here is a case of two different things being simultaneously true. I can oppose leftist anarchy at the same time I oppose right-wing sedition. The world is not a binary system where if something is 1 it cannot also be 0. The world, as it turns out, is a complex system. It’s filled with extraordinarily few great absolutes and enormous gradients of gray everywhere else.

The number of people who want to excuse “their” side as being justified or righteous would be horrifying if it weren’t so tiringly predictable. If you’re so blinded by your “side” and its rightness, so steeped in your side’s talking points that you can’t apply a single shred of independent thought, or God forbid, analytical rigor, then we probably don’t have much to say to each other.

As for me, I feel an inherent moral obligation to oppose extreme fuckery it all its many forms from both the left and the right, so I’ll keep calling the balls and strikes just as I see them.