Damnatio…

Two millennia ago in ancient Rome, one of the gravest punishments the Senate was empowered to hand down was the damnatio memoriae – literally damning the memory of a failed leader by erasing them, as completely as possible, from the historical record.

It’s an official forgetting. It’s a bold statement that some people, some actions, are unworthy to even serve as a warning to others. Some people can best serve history by being exiled from it.

I have no idea at all what pulled that little nugget of information to mind this afternoon. Yep. No idea at all. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Facebook live video. I get it, Zuckerberg. You did a neat thing and can push live video direct to my phone. That’s nifty. But really what I need my social media to do is compliment my daily activities, not attempt to hijack and monopolize them. One of the reasons I still like Facebook is it isn’t time dependent. I can check my news feed periodically throughout the day, check responses to comments, laugh at a few cat pictures, and then move on. Getting 20 notices an hour that friends and pages I follow “went live” isn’t helping. Thank God now that it’s become a thing you did at least give us a toggle switch to make it go away.

2. Rescheduling. If you have a meeting set up with one of the gods on Olympus and the date and time of that meeting gets changed three times in as many days, you know all you need to know about the priority of the effort in which you are engaged. Look, I’m perfectly fine being a low priority, but it would be helpful to know that well in advance so I can allocate my own time spent working on a particular project appropriately.

3. You and the team. I got an email a few days ago asking for “me and my team” to review something. While it’s adorable that anyone things that my work output is the collective group effort of some mythical team, it’s just me down here banging shit out every day. Those reports you’re getting, those briefings you’re reading, those endless meetings being attended, that’s me. It’s not a vast team of people coordinating this jackassery. I’m an army of one down here in the belly of this particular beast. However, if you do indeed believe this product to be the work of a team, I believe it’s high time we started talking about a step increase and a title bump.

Two days…

I’m back at work. Have been since last week. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped paying attention to the grand game of “How Many Asshats can We Fit in One Building?” that our political “leaders” are playing on the Hill. As bad as it is that Republicans and Democrats seem physiological incapable of talking to one another, that’s nothing compared to the truly remarkable feat of House Republicans apparently not even being able to talk amongst themselves. That takes political incompetence to a whole new level. Impressive work, Congressmen.

From my reading of the tea leaves, we’re inside the 48 hour mark now. Either these jackasses will get around to doing the hard work of governing or they’ll crank the throttle wide open and let it all fly off the rails. I’m a reasonable close watcher of politics and a betting man by nature, but even if I wasn’t owed back pay and had a fist full of cash, I wouldn’t lay a bet on which way this shitshow is going to break.

Universal wisdom is that careening headlong into the debt ceiling would be bad. The fun part? Absolutely no one knows how bad it might be. My reading pegs it somewhere along the scale of Accidental Nuclear Detonation in Times Square Bad. Even if it’s less bad than that, it’s going to be bad. Defaulting on the sovereign debt and/or other financial obligations of the United States is simply unimaginable from any sane, reasonable perspective. To do it over an issue of personal pride or to make cheap political points is damned near treasonous.

We have 536 “leaders” in Washington and there’s apparently not one damned statesman in the bunch.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The dead zone. Although they swear it’s unintentional, the building where I work is essentially a giant Faraday cage. Outside in the parking lot, five solid bars of 3G coverage. Inside, at my desk, with my phone pressed against the glass, one bar of intermittent EDGE coverage. Sometimes. If all the atmospheric conditions are just right. I don’t want to sit at my desk playing Angry Birds all day, but it would at least be nice to know who called when the “you have a voicemail” alert manages to fight its way through to my phone. Mostly though, you just get to be surprised by the texts, emails, and voice messages that come rolling in whenever you happen to go outside. Maybe I should just set everything to roll over to my Google Voice account and really freak the IT security weenies out.

2. Forgetting the airbags. For the last two weeks, I’ve been mentally preparing myself to get the truck back on Friday. It’s not that the rental car is awful, but well, it’s not my truck and not being able to see anything further than the tail end of the car in front of me lacks a certain charm. I called Monday and everything was still on track for a Friday pickup. When I called to check in this afternoon, apparently there’s been a snag. A very sheepish office manager confessed that they had forgotten to include replacing my deployed airbags in the original repair estimate and had therefor not ordered them. I’m not a fancy big city auto body shop, but I think I would have noticed the big white deflated bits hanging out of the steering wheel and from under the dash. Maybe it’s just me though. The parts are ordered and the truck is allegedly back together now, so as soon as they get there hands on the airbags, we should be all set. As of a few hours ago, Tuesday is the new Friday.

3. Iran. Part of me is stunned and amazed that we’re going to fiddle around and wring our hands and wait just long enough for Iran to make their very own nuke. The other part of me then remembers that it’s a government operation and then all of me ceases to be surprised. Boy if you thought groups like the Taliban were dangerous before, just wait until their friends get the bomb. The world is going to change and while we had a chance to stop it or at least stand aside while someone else stopped it, we sat around fretting about convincing our enemies that stopping the madness was a good idea. A hundred years from now, the world is going to look back at this generation of “leaders” and collectively ask WTF, dude?

My Mr. Smith moment…

I did something today that I’ve never even given more than a passing thught to doing in the past. I exercised my right to call out, or rather call on, my elected representative to Congress. The nice staffer at Congressman Blackburn’s office was very polite when i explained that I was a registered voter in the Tennessee 7th, a federal employee, and that I’d very much like to go to work on Monday. She assured me that my message would make it to the congressman straight away. Yeah, I’m not sure I bought that part, but someone less jaded would have probably appreciated it as a helpful throwaway statement.

I have no idea what made me think of doing that. It just struck me that some effort needs to be made to keep the scale from being completely filled with the voices of the radicals who want to believe that Jesus hates compromise. We need serious structural changes to how the government does business. What we don’t need is 800,000 more people unemployed on Monday morning because the elected leaders of the United States of America can’t find their honorable asses with both hands and a flashlight.

Essential…

In light of what seems to be an impending shutdown of the United States Government (yeah, Congress, I’m looking at you), there has been much discussion about what makes one an “essential” part of the workforce. Air traffic controllers? Yeah, makes sense. Nuclear submariner? Yep, you make the cut. But where the line of essential stops, there is a vast gray area of things that seem important, but no one can say for certain that they are technically speaking, essential to public safety.

That being said, there’s something profoundly disheartening about getting the official email that not only are you nonessential, but so is your entire office and everyone else in your building for that matter. In fact, you’re so nonessential that when the funds run out, you’re going to turn the lights out, lock the doors, and just walk away. It does give someone given to a somewhat cynical outlook reason to ponder what that could really mean in the teeth of exploding deficits and a Tea Party that seems to want a federal government that operates under the Article of Confederation.

It’s fair to say that my PowerPoints aren’t going to put an end to the war(s) or inspire an economic rally, but I have a secret, unredeemed belief that with the right (or any actual) leadership, both here locally and at the highest levels things do not have to be as they now are. If not essential, we can certainly be productive… but only when we have leaders worthy of good and faithful followers.