Diplomacy…

I’m not, either by training or disposition, suited for the world of diplomacy. There they use find words and polite phrases to make even the simplest issues sound complex. The complex issues, well, they make sound too difficult for a mere mortal to comprehend. Certainly not all people will ever grasp the detail of policy but the brad strokes don’t feel like they should be out of reach.

While I can’t in good conscience support all of the activities on the world stage of our current president, I do have something of a gut feeling that an occasional shake up in the polite world of diplomacy might actually be a net good overall. Turning the polite, made-for-tv photo op frippery of international diplomacy on its ear makes a dark little corner of my heart just a little bit happy.

With the G7 conference left in a tizzy, I’m waiting with great interest to see what news comes from Singapore. I fully expect the hand wringing of the international media, talking heads, the left here at home to be something worth seeing – even if only for its entertainment value.

No, I don’t want to watch the world burn, but I don’t mind at all seeing it dragged out of its comfort zone from time to time.

Like I said, I’d well and truly suck as a diplomat.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Firewalls. I’m perfectly well aware of the need for network security. Keeping China out of our computer system is a worthy goal. That being said, it feels like there should be some kind of reasonable middle ground that would not also block me from accessing large swaths of the interwebs that I need to do my actual job. For the country that put a man on the moon using a ship with less computing horsepower than a TI graphing calculator, it really doesn’t feel like it should be that much of a stretch.

2. Risk mitigation. Hawaii is a beautiful part of the world. I was lucky early in my career to have everyone pay for me to spend a fair amount of time out there. After reading all the news reports of homes being destroyed and residents being left penniless because their property wasn’t insured, all I can do is shake my head and wonder what the fuck they were thinking. It’s very clear from the first time you fly into the airport on the Big Island that you are treading on the upper reaches of a volcano – one that you know is active because it’s been spewing lava into the ocean for a couple of decades now. Building or buying a house sitting on top of an active volcano and then opting not to hedge your bet, feels awfully foolish. When I lived deep in the heart of the New Madrid Seismic Zone the likelihood of the house falling down on my head was small, but the severity if it did happen was catastrophic. You can bet your last puka bead that I threw down the extra scratch to tack on an earthquake rider to my policy. I’m not saying I don’t feel bad for the people who gabled and lost, but living in paradise doesn’t negate the need cover your own ass.

3. Death to America. I don’t agree with every policy position set out by the Trump Administration. Not by a long shot. However, when the religio-extremists governing Iran are sending their people into the streets to chant “death to America,” I’ve always thought there’s a good chance we’re doing something right.

Impolitic priorities…

I spent some time this weekend updating the financial tracking software I use. It’s not quite the elegant solution I’d like but it does give me real time, at a glance visibility of everything from credit cards to mortgage debt to retirement accounts. If you know where you’re trying to get, I’ve found it helpful to also know where you’re currently standing. It’s been a years-in-the-making process to find something that would work close to the way I wanted. With the exception of a few loose ends, I’m reasonably happy with how it’s all working.

I try to make a habit of doing monthly review of where things are, how they’re doing, and what could be better allocated elsewhere. What my last half dozen reviews have told me is that despite my friends being sharply divided on the presidency of Donald Trump, the markets are more than happy to have him in the big chair. It’s probably impolitic to say, but with all other considerations being equal, I’m going to generally fall in on the side of whatever is putting dollars in the bank.

Don’t mistake that to mean that I’ve developed a deep, abiding love of Donald Trump. I know this administration has issues, I know the country is wide open to political debate about what we should and shouldn’t be doing, and while I love all of you, regardless of political affiliation, I’m not about to argue with anything that racks up double digit returns on investment and improves my chances of punching out of my cubicle for the last time somewhere close to on time and near target.

Inmate Manning…

Inmate Manning was arrested for and convicted of one of the most grievous breaches of national security ever committed by a single individual. Inmate Manning was was accused and convicted of violating the espionage act and sundry other charges for making public 750,000 military and diplomatic documents. The inmate may have been convicted of espionage, but in my mind those actions are nothing less than treason. I can’t imagine a crime more vile or a creature so loathsome than a traitor.

Even more appalling, of course is that after serving only seven years Inmate Manning was granted clemency by the outgoing administration. It seems the inmate couldn’t even manage to find the personal fortitude to serve the time for the acts admittedly committed. It was clemency offered by and accepted from an administration that’s spent the last few months raising three kinds of hell about foreign influence on American elections, freeing known terrorists from confinement, and and generally leaking like a sieve.

This… “person”… betrayed the United States of America, put American lives at risk overseas, and was belatedly rewarded for the effort. I’d dearly love to say I’m surprised, but it feels ever more like business as usual in a world where up is down and good is evil.

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.

Who I want at my disaster…

Some of the news outlets are making hay about President Obama staying on vacation while Louisiana floods. Some say he should be back in Washington monitoring the situation while others say he should have flown directly into the flood zone. Now I’m no particular fan of this president and his policies, my take on that situation is a healthy “so what?”

If my house were sitting up to the rafters in water, the very last thing I’d want to see is the president and his host of support staff, security, and journalists descend on my street. Frankly at a time like that the only people I’d want to see are the ones who are there to physically help with the clean up process. If I had to speculate, I’d say that when you’re up to your eyeballs in water a presidential handshake and photo opp are far less valuable than a guy with a pump or shop vac.

What no one sees behind the scenes of a concerned president feeling the nation’s pain is the massive logistical operation involved in moving him anywhere. What appears calm and perfectly scripted on screen only does so because 1000 people are peddling like mad just out of the shot. I’m guessing Louisiana doesn’t need that kind of help right now.

There are plenty of good and reasonable reasons to criticize the president and his handling of the nation’s issues… but sorry, folks, this isn’t one of them.

Every forth lustrum…

I cast my first vote for president in the 1996 contest between Bob Dole and Bill Clinton. I’ve cast votes in every presidential primary and general election since then. Next week, for the first time in twenty years, I’ll actually vote for a candidate running in a race the outcome of which isn’t a foregone conclusion. By the time the primaries roll around in Maryland the nominee is usually running away with it. In the general election, mother Maryland is so reliably blue that all I’m doing at the polls is decreasing the Democratic nominee’s margin of victory by one vote.

Even knowing that the results in my home state are almost never contested, I’ve felt that it’s important to take those few minutes and participate in the process. It’s that much more important this year, because the results really are still in question and so many of the pieces on the board are still in play.

I won’t bore you with the numbing detail of local races, but I’ll say with firm conviction that I still support Governor John Kasich as the best Republican in the race and the candidate from either side of the aisle best suited be the next President of the United States. Next Tuesday he’ll have my vote.