What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. I left the house a little later than usual. Where the street I live on dumps out into the local county road parents and their SUVs were stacked up like cord wood. There they sat, engines running, more or less blocking the road, and making sure their little princelings had enough heat while they waited for the school bus. It was just below freezing, not exactly polar explorer weather. Basically a decent coat and a good pair of socks would have been enough to make it tolerable for a few minutes. I can’t help but remember my own childhood where if you didn’t walk to school you at least walked to the bus stop – and that’s back at a time and place where temperatures below freezing weren’t cause for any particular alarm, being part and parcel as they are of the winter weather season. These kids have never been allowed to run through the woods throwing rocks at each other and it shows.

2. ISIS brides. The last few weeks have been thick with reports of women and girls who ran off from western civilization for the fun and adventure of becoming ISIS brides. Now, with the dream of an Islamic caliphate collapsing around their ears, they come out of the woodwork claiming to have learned the error of their ways. Here they come crawling “home” after years of providing aid and comfort to the enemy. I’m not a scholar of international law nor does my heart bleed for their reaping the results of traitorous decisions. They wanted the wonder of life in the belly of the beast, the best thing that we can do now is let them have it.

3. Fentanyl. I keep seeing news stories wherein a drug ring has been busted in possession of enough  Fentanyl to kill 375,000,000 people. Look, I know we can’t really aerosolize the stuff and indiscriminately launch it from a mortar tube, but maybe we hold back on making these arrests for a hot second. I mean, look, people are basically awful so with enough of this floating around in the underground economy it seems to me the problem with those who habitually associate with a culture of heavy drug use could significantly reduce the demand side of the market by simply dropping dead. If a subset of the population is committed to continuing  to inject a substance they know full well may kill them more or less instantly, I don’t feel any moral force compelling me to intervene between them and and their apparent desired end state. I’d rather spend a much reduced budget on saving the small minority whose exposure to fentanyl or other high powered narcotics is accidental or that happens in the line of duty. Don’t tell me I never see the bright side, damnit.

Tear jerker…

Ok friends, first off, let me say up front that this post is likely going to offend approximately 50% of people who read it. That’s fine. It might even be good if that offense turns into anything like a discussion or even a moment to think through the issue at hand.

One of the meme’s I’ve seen online over the last few days really leaves me with a head scratching moment every time it comes along.  I’m a reasonably well educated man, but I stand utterly agape when I see someone post that “We have to let everyone into the country because the Statue of Liberty says so.”

Now I have no ill feeling for Lady Liberty. She’s a fine monument. I think that back in the mid-1980s our elementary school even had a fundraiser to help her along through a renovation.

The thing I really want to know from those who would see the spigot cranked wide open, though, is how many of the “huddled masses” are they personally willing to stand surety? For how many will they personally provide food, clothing, and ensure prompt medical care? For how many are they personally willing to assume responsibility? How many can come over and crash in their spare bedroom? Will they let them use the family car or make them catch the bus?

If the answer is “none,” or “the government should do that,” I’m afraid I find your support for the tear jerker of the moment less than convincing. It’s awfully easy to say “oh dear, someone should help those poor people,” but if you feel so strongly that we should take all comers regardless of cost and regardless of risk, this is probably going to be one of those cases where your actions speak louder than your words.

Or just go ahead and post another meme with Liberty in the background. Either way.

Strange bedfellows…

I find myself in the awkward position of wanting to congratulate Anonymous for their first salvo against ISIS. By the initial reports 5000 or so Twitter accounts linked to terror groups have suddenly found themselves disabled. It’s not a sweeping victory, but anything that negatively impacts the terrorist’s ability to exercise command and control, recruit, or otherwise get their message out is absolutely welcome.

I can’t help but think of the vagaries of this Global War on Terror we find ourselves in and what strange bedfellows it makes. Nevertheless, well done lads, keep pouring it on. While you do that, we’ll keep prodding our own “leaders” to do something that feels like more than lip service.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Pay at the pump. Look, I did the B-school thing. I get the business model you’re using. I know that the average convenience store doesn’t make jack squat from selling gasoline… you make your money when people come in and buy a slurpee or a hotdog or a case of beer. If I’m paying at the pump, though, that’s probably because I don’t want to come in to the damned store. Can you knock it off with playing twenty questions before letting me buy a little gas? No, I don’t want a car wash. Why they actual eff do you need to know what my zip code is? I don’t care one way or another if you print a recipe… except when I say yes and then your little printer-in-the-pump is out of paper or ink or isn’t working for whatever reason. I just want to swipe my card, fill up the tank, and move on. I don’t come in and ask your employees their home address, what exactly goes in the chicken salad or if they can just put my beer in a paper sack instead of plastic. Please can we just complete our transaction and go our separate ways? I’d be willing to pay a few cents more a gallon just for that small mercy.

2. Working late. It’s hard to believe I ever sought out jobs where 12 hour days were the standard. Now I’m older, wiser, and my overtime rate isn’t worth a damn. I admit it, I’m a jealous guard of my personal time, but the other side of that coin is that I do my level best not to drag my personal life into the office. It doesn’t matter to me if its five minutes, fifty, or five hours. It’s not about the money. Time, once spent, is irrecoverable – money, by contrast, flies off the presses all day every day. What’s even more noxious is the assumption that I can just stick around as if there’s not another thing in the world to do. If you’re going to burn up my time, I’d appreciate at least an acknowledgement that it’s an inconvenience that’s been noted. Don’t worry, though, I’ll make sure the scales balance, but it will be balanced at the time of my choosing, regardless of what’s convenient for anyone else.

3. Palmyra. One of the greatest archeological treasures in the world has fallen to lunatic Islamic forces in Syria. It’s gotten some coverage. It will get a little more when the looting and destruction start in ernest. It’s the kind of place that’s worth defending, but mostly the world with shrug and wring its collective hands when millennia of history are smashed, bulldozed, or sold off onto the black market. I don’t have much use for radicals of any stripe, but for the ones who destroy history just for the joy of seeing it burn, slow death is too good for their ilk.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Boxes. I’ve moved five times in the last 15 years and I always, always grossly underestimate the number of boxes it’s going to take to get the job done. Sure, the planned upcoming move clocks in at just three miles on the nose, but that doesn’t mean I want to spend three weeks shuffling crap back and forth 20 boxes at a time. This is the operative definition of wanting to work out a one-and-done situation. I’d settle for two or three, but the heavy lifting is going to get done in one shot. In the meantime I guess I’ll have to live with the every growing mountain of cardboard that’s slowly taking root in each room.

2. ISIS. I think I’ve made it clear that I harbor no love for ISIS and those who adhere to it. I guess you can chalk the fact that they’re currently busy grinding historic artifacts that have survived thousands of years into powder because they’re “heretical” and go against the teachings of Islam as just another reason. Since these artifacts were created a few thousand years before anyone bothered to come up with the tenets of the Islamic faith, I guess they’d pretty much have to be. If setting people on fire and cutting off heads wasn’t enough of an indicator that we’re dealing with savages, the fact that they want to ignore every part of the vast sweep of human history that doesn’t agree with their crackpot view of the world is a pretty good sign that they shouldn’t be allowed to exist in the modern world.

3. Legalization. If the people of the District of Columbia want to legalize, regulate, and tax, marijuana I say God bless. Yes, I know, it’s a federal district granted limited home rule by the Congress, but just for the sake of argument I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the US Congress has more important things to do than legislate whether John Q. Pothead is entitled to smoke up. As long as we’re a nation that likes its cigarettes, beer, whisky, and prescription meds (and we’re ok making enormous amounts of money taxing those things), I’m not buying the argument that mary jane is a gateway to anything more dangerous than a late night snack.

Soft underbelly…

America is full of soft targets – Mall of America is an obvious choice simply by virtue of it’s size – but really any place where people congregate and are focused shopping, socializing, or anything other than paying attention to what’s going on around them fall into this category. For most of our lifetimes we’ve been safely sheltered from the world’s troubles by our dual moats, the Pacific and Atlantic, and by the simple fact of how unimaginably large a land mass we occupy. High speed travel and the internet are making those distances seem less significant – the unintended consequence being that it also makes us less secure.

I’ve often said that if I were going to plan an domestic attack on America all I’d need is a hundred really committed followers and the location of the busiest Starbucks in ten different states, the ten busiest banks in ten different cities, the ten best rated elementary schools in the ten most affluent zip codes in America. Are you seeing a theme yet? If my goal is to cause terror, why would I bother attacking military bases, government centers, or even utilities? Want to see society grind itself to a halt over a period of a month? Hit us where the people are – not at our grand events, but at the places we frequent day in and day out. Hit us where we collectively feel comfortable.

A reasonably well coordinated attack on our soft underbelly is one of the several nightmare scenarios that genuinely keeps me awake at night – and now ISIS has blatantly told us that they’ve been thinking about those kind of targets too.

We can’t harden every target. Even if we could, living in an even more intrusive surveillance state than we do now isn’t something I’d consider a worthy tradeoff. That means it’s basically up to us to mind our own little corner of the store. Pay attention to where you are and who’s around you. Do you know what to look for when something feels wrong? Can you pick a room apart for what or who looks out of place? Can you spot an average pickpocket working a crowded food court or spot the telltale “print” of a badly concealed handgun?

Yeah, neither can I… at least most of the time. That doesn’t mean I’m not looking every time I walk into a room. I might not live up to General Mattis’ rule for having a plan to kill everyone I meet, but you can be damned well sure I know where the closest exit is just in case I need to get away from them in a hurry. Trust me, you’d be surprised just how fast this fat man can move when he thinks his life depends on it. It might not be the stuff of heroes, but I have a very well developed sense of self preservation. I hope you do too.

It’s time we stop pretending…

At some point the civilized world is going to have to wake up. They’re going to have to wake up and face the fact that the only way we win the Global War on Terror is to kill the terrorists. Hunt them down and kill them where they live, where they run, and where they hide. It’s not the job of days or weeks. It’s not the job of years. It’s a job that will only be completed out over decades and generations.

I have no quarrel with people of faith, but I have every quarrel with a small group who douse their hostages in gasoline and then set them alight. I have every quarrel with a group who believe beheading aid workers will put them in good stead with their version of an Almighty. I have every quarrel with those who publish videos of those acts online as a valedictory. I have every quarrel with those who think now is a time for talking, or appeasement, or retreat in the face of these barbaric attacks.

I’m finished with compromise. I’m finished with pretending that this lot is just another irritant in a world full of troubles. Wrestling these into submission is the war that will define the 21st century. It’s time anyone with even the barest shred of humanity stop pretending we can continue to allow these blood-soaked savages to coexist in our world.

Civis Americanus…

I’ve just started seeing reports of a second American citizen, a journalist covering the war in Syria, being beheaded by Islamic extremists.

Two Americans are dead at the hands of these thugs and still there is a deafening silence from the White House. We don’t have a strategy. The American president has so much as said he doesn’t want to engage and that his administration doesn’t have courage to lead this great Republic in a war of retribution against those who would do harm to our countrymen.

I’m reminded of a first season episode of The West Wing, when President Bartlett notes how Rome responded when a citizen was killed. He said, “Did you know that two thousand years ago a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world free of the fear of molestation? He could walk across the Earth unharmed, cloaked only in the protection of the words civis Romanus — I am a Roman citizen. So great was the retribution of Rome, universally understood as certain, should any harm befall even one of its citizens… Where was the retribution for the families, and where is the warning to the rest of the world that Americans shall walk this Earth unharmed, lest the clenched fist of the most mighty military force in the history of mankind comes crashing down on your house?!”

I’m sick of hearing that the United States doesn’t have the stomach to be an occupying power. We’ve been occupying Germany and Japan since 1945. We’ve been occupying Puerto Rico since 1898. Our warships patrol every seaway across the globe. We’re already an occupying power in fact if not in word. It’s time we get over the self-denial and self flagellation about that. A hundred years from now keeping the lid on a batshit crazy world will be someone else’s problem, but today it’s ours.

As such, if I were President this afternoon my statement of strategy would be simple: I have directed the Secretary of Defense to begin offensive military operations using overwhelming force against Islamic radical elements in Syria and Iraq and in any other location where they harm or threaten to harm the interests or citizens of the United States. I have directed my Secretary of the Treasury to seize all assets and freeze all accounts held by or known to support terrorist elements. I have directed my Secretary of Commerce to place an immediate trade embargo on all countries known to support terrorism or those doing business with countries known to support terrorism. I am invoking Article 5 of the NATO Charter and calling on our allies to take immediate steps to place themselves on a similar war footing. Those countries who shirk their long standing treaty obligations are no longer considered strategic allies of the United States. I am calling on Congress to vote an immediate declaration of war and directing every resource of the United States government towards eradicating the threat of radical trans-national terrorism by stem and root. There are no terms except unconditional surrender.

To do anything other than rise to this challenge is an act of cowardice and wholly unworthy of the United States of America.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Being off schedule. I don’t know what it is about this summer, but I no sooner hit “post” on one week’s WAJTW entry and I’m right back here doing it all over again. It feels a little like Thursdays are separated by 60 hours instead of six days. I’m going to blame the unwelcome interloper of physical therapy on the fact that it feels like I’m always on the cusp of being late to do everything. Throwing an extra hour of “stuff” plus the drive time into the mix has really kept things pressed at the margins. It hasn’t been a recipe for keeping up with my usual activities – not surprisingly, cleaning and sleep have taken the worst of it. I’ve been trying to remind myself that it won’t last forever, which is fine, but at the moment it’s annoying the living hell out of me.

2. The Islamic State. ISIS needs but a single, swift lesson – that if you kill an unarmed American civilian anywhere, you don’t get your picture on every news website on the planet. What you get is the wrath of an angry god falling down on your house. It’s hard to bomb someone back to the stone age when they’re living there already, but I’m all for using those pretty B-52s we have and making the rubble bounce again and again and again and again. Every time ISIS pops up long enough to make a statement, a cruise missile should fly straight down their collective throats. I’m tired of pretending that we have to be tolerant and respectful. In some cases there is an absolute right and an absolute wrong and slaying an unarmed journalist guilty of nothing more than doing his job is an absolute wrong. I’m not naive enough to think we can solve every problem with 1000 pound bombs, but in this case I think they’d be a damn fine start until we think of something more permanent.

3. The news. I need to stop watching it. I need to stop reading it. I operate on the basic assumption that bad things were happening all over the world long before the magic of television brought all of those stories into our living rooms. It’s not like mayhem and chaos are a new force in the universe. Most of what passes for news today doesn’t inspire me to action, but it does tend to drive my blood pressure to new and probably dangerous heights. I can’t shake the feeling that I’d be better off on nearly level if I didn’t know (and didn’t care) what was happening around me. Ignorance, I fear, may truly be bliss.