What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Air conditioning. If reports out of central Maryland are to be believed, we are now living in the midst of the worst rash of human rights violations in the history of the state. I wish I’d have known back in the 80s and 90s that air conditioning in schools was a civil right. It turns out mine were violated regularly between about 1989 and 1996 when I and my classmates were forced to endure education without the benefit of air conditioning with only the comforting whir of dozens of box fans stirring the broiling air inside our classrooms. Since these long-dormant childhood injuries have now been pulled to the surface by an insensitive media establishment, I’m left wondering which state office we need to file with to receive our settlement for emotional trauma and discomfort?

2. Cowardice. Courage isn’t hiding behind a brick wall of anonymity saying mean things for fun and profit while trying to make sure you don’t lose your job. If you’re a member of the administration, outraged by it’s behavior and feel that you have no recourse but to speak out against it, the only legitimate option available to you is to resign your position. Then you are free to speak out and avail yourself of every other opportunity afforded to you. When I have an opinion, unpopular or not, I post it here and make sure my name is one it. To make your stand anonymously from a position of safety protected from public scrutiny isn’t an act of bravery, but a self-serving act of personal cowardice.

3. Thursday dinner. I loath and dispise needing to cook a full meal when I get home from work. Mostly I solve that problem by over-making Sunday dinner and crock-potting something on Monday. Juicy leftover goodness is the dispensed for lunch and dinner for the next three days. By Thursday, though, the options box starts looking a little bare… and by a little bare, I mean selecting between frozen burritos, Spaghettio’s, or a tasty bowl of Corn Flakes. Sure, I could order up something for delivery, but that involves someone coming to the house, so it’s a less desirable option. I could, of course, give in, and prepare an actual meal. That option, too, feels unlikely. If it’s Thursday and you’re reading this, chances are Corn Flakes has ended up being what’s for dinner.

AMA: On POTUS and Russia…

I’ve been staying away from the POTUS/Russia topic not so much because it feels unimportant as because it feels a lot like whole choruses of “yes he did” and “no he didn’t.” I don’t follow the daily news as closely as some people think – much beyond checking the traffic and weather while making my morning coffee. Beyond the sound bites, I haven’t taken much time to separate fact from fiction and am operating on the assumption that the truth lies somewhere between the extremes of a President who claims to never have talked to a Russian and a opposition party taking to the airwaves accusing the President of being the most effective deep cover agent in the world’s long history of espionage.

My best guess is what we have is a President who spent his entire adult life not studying global geopolitics, but operating in the morally and ethically gray space of construction and real estate development. By way of contrast Vladimir Putin *has* spent his life studying geopolitics. global finance, international intelligence gathering, and has built a historically unprecedented criminal enterprise disguised as a sovereign country. Given the discrepancy of experience, I can only speculate that it would have been relatively easy for a figure like Putin to find both the ways and means to exert influence, if not directly on the candidate then potentially on those around him. The Russian government would certainly have that capability.

The kicker here, of course, is that nothing that’s being reported in the media constitutes actual evidence of conspiracy, or collusion, or whatever crime of the day is being exhorted. The shrill dog whistles from both the liberal and conservative media make it particularly challenging to determine fact from fiction. Evidence isn’t what’s reported in the media. In it’s most legalistic definition evidence is facts and information laid before the court – or in limited cases laid by the House of Representatives before the Senate sitting in judgement.

For me, today, the simple fact is I’m just not following that closely because while a whole universe of things may be true, no one has demonstrated that truth outside of the media circus that has become what passes for political discourse in this country. Once we’re talking about actual evidence that’s not being presented through the filter of shouting pundits, I’ll probably give it a little more consideration. Until then, well, the Trump presidency hasn’t really been bad for me on the all important personal level – I’ve got more cash in my pocket due to the tax cut, my retirement accounts are plumping up nicely, my employer’s budget hasn’t been slashed, and a host of political issues that are a priority to me are effectively being left alone or marginally improved upon. For now, he’s the devil I know.

Note: This post was written by request as part of my ill fated July ask-me-anything. Thanks, Mike for making me think about something I probably should have been paying more attention to long before now. If anyone has a question or topic you’d like to see given the treatment, fire away and I’ll do my best.

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.