What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Non-final decisions. Should I ever find myself deified and empowered to pass judgement from high atop Olympus, the cardinal sin that would earn my condemnation would be indecisiveness. If you’ve got the charter to lead, then by God, lead. Make a decision. Do something. Or just keep deferring any kind of actual decision until the diminishing number of hours available in which to act precludes all but one possible course of action.

2. Partisan politics. When Party A goes to the wall screaming about what Party B is doing, I mostly tune it out. I know my mind and no amount of rending of Congressional garments for the cameras will change that. When Party A spends the day screaming about something that Party B is doing and it’s exactly the kind of procedural jackassery Party A did when they were in the majority, well lord, I don’t know why anyone would ever think we could have a functioning legislative branch. I’m sick to death of politicians and people in general who only find something objectionable when it’s done by someone else, but perfectly fine when they do it.

3. Lack of marketable skills. My particular skill set is pretty closely tailored to work on the inside. There just is’t a lot of call for someone who can slam together a 150 slide powerpoint briefing, plan a party for 55 of your closest friends without breaking federal law, or estimate how much ice or water you might need after a hurricane (and know how to order and ship it). I’ve been on the inside so long now I wouldn’t even know how to apply for a gig outside. Of course there’s too much now tied up in retirement and benefits to really consider a wholesale change – especially when the jobs that sound even remotely interesting would lead directly from professional bliss to personal bankruptcy. I’m feeling just a little bit trapped and that makes me fantastically edgy.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. “Emergencies”. We’ve been over this before, but it bears repeating. The way people throw around the work “emergency” in the contemporary office is basically laughable. No one is bleeding. No one is about to start bleeding. The word you’re probably looking for most often is “embarrassing” as in you’re about to be embarrassed due to something you did, were supposed to do, forgot about doing. ​Alternately, you might be about to get blasted because of poor decision making skills. In any case, those things might represent a legitimate personal emergency to you, but to the rest of us it’s really just a shrug and a so what. Let’s try to leave the talk of “emergencies” to the times when there really are barbarians at the gate or brass hitting the floor, ok?

2. County taxes. The proposed Cecil County budget for FY18 includes increases in both the real property and income taxes. It’s made all the more noxious because it was proposed by a Republican county executive who ran less than a year ago on a platform of fiscal accountability and no tax increases. I know, lying politician isn’t exactly breaking news. Still, though, I’m left to wonder why at some point it isn’t perfectly acceptable to say that we have X number of dollars to spend against Y number of services and when there’s no additional revenue for new or existing services, some things need to be cut. The politicians first response is always to borrow or tax their way into all the revenue they need instead of being required to live by an actual budget in which they can’t always purchase all the goods and services they’d like to have. In the end the bastards always end up with their hand just a little deeper in our pocket. I suppose that’s just what you get when every level of government desperately wants to buy the love and affection of the voters and seeks ways to be all things to all people.

3. Keeping my head in the game. I’m probably expending at least as much energy just trying to keep my head in the game as I am actually doing any productive work. That doesn’t feel like something that’s going to be sustainable over the long term. It’s easier some days than others, but for the most part by the time mid-afternoon rolls around I’m dumping every bit of available effort into just staying awake and some delusory productive activities. Believe me when I tell you that you don’t want to read some of the written products that fly off my desk after 2PM. Unless I absolutely can’t avoid it, I hold them as drafts and then clean them up the next morning when I’m still relatively fresh. It’s a hell of a way to run a railroad.

It goes with the territory…

I had every intention to write tonight about the history of controversial White House staff appointments in the last few administrations, but largely due to not wanting to do the research to validate my memory, I’ve decided against it. The truth is, almost as soon as your party finds itself out of power the memory of anything they did that stirred the least bit of controversy flees from memory. Except in a few rare circumstances, we tend to remember presidential administrations for all of their virtues and none of their vices. For the time being just take my word for it that every incoming president appoints staffers that the opposition believes is the devil incarnate. It goes with the territory.

During these transitions of power we all tend to forget that the presidency is bigger than any one man. It’s bigger than any single administration. Given our seemingly insurmountable differences we rarely stop to marvel at the unbroken succession of peaceful transfers of power stretching back to George Washington. Given the number of young democracies that fall into chaos when a chief executive departs, it really is something quite remarkable that we manage to get it done with little more than yelling at each other.

That’s not to say that the process is pretty or that it’s in any way satisfying for anyone involved. No matter the results of a presidential election, no one ever gets the whole loaf. Even with one party ascendant over the executive and legislative branches, there are plenty of opportunities for policy goals to be held immobile. One of the wonders of the American system is just how difficult the Founding Fathers made it to get anything done. That wasn’t done by accident.

Anyway, everyone take a breath. In 1933 Republicans screamed that FDR was going to turn us all into socialists. He didn’t. In 2016 Democrats are screaming that Trump will turn us all into Nazis. He won’t. Relax and remember that campaigning for the next presidential primary is only about two years away.

Admitting when you’re wrong…

Last night I put my money on effectively seeing “no change” in the power dynamic in Washington. I called for a Clinton win, Democratic Senate, and maintaining a Republican-led House. It was a conventional prediction based on conventional, if basic, analysis of the news over the few days prior to the election. It was conventional and I was absolutely wrong in reading this most unconventional of elections. In light of the banner headlines on every news site I’ve seen today, I feel like I needed to call myself out.

The Washington Post, not a Republican mouthpiece or cheerleader for conservative ideas, confessed sheepishly that “Republicans have achieved the almost-unachievable: Near-absolute victory.” As an occasional member of the Republican Party (yes, I’ve left and come back more often than I care to think about), it’s the kind of story that makes me happy on this day after. It also fills me with a special kind of dread, because elections have consequences… and the major consequence of this election is that Republicans are going to have to get their act together and figure out how to govern again, versus just being obstructionist douchecanoes.

Mario Cuomo, the one time Governor of New York, said “You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.” I can’t speak for the quality of the poetry we’ve seen in 2016, but I hope that our prose somehow manages to move the bubble on our state of political dysfunction in this country. Yesterday we saw the resurrection of a political party that was all but written off as dead due to shifting demographics. If we don’t mangle the job too badly, maybe, just maybe, the election of 2016 can be something more than a last gasp of an angry electorate.

Just an idealist…

The push is on by all the parties to get out the vote. In the swing states it’s wall too wall advertising, phone calls, and door knocking. It’s one of the very few moments when living in a deeply blue state is a blessing. My vote for president may be worthless, but at least I’m not being bludgeoned by adds like the poor bastards in Ohio or Pennsylvania.

Getting out the vote is a fine thing in theory. or it is until I remember that the people these efforts are designed to bring to the polls aren’t the ones who have spent months studying the candidates and issues. The last minute crush is designed to bring on the ones who haven’t made a lick of effort to education themselves. In all likelihood they’re the ones who stand in front of the menu board at your local fast food shop and look completely perplexed by their options. They’re the ones who get distracted by their radio and drive on the interstate exit ramp. If they’re not making up their minds until 36 hours before the polls open, they’re likely not the kind of informed electorate we want to believe we have here in our American republic.

In the last couple of decades we’ve made massive efforts to chase something close to universal voter registration. It’s probably a fine idea in concept. We’ve made such an effort to register everyone who can vote that we’ve never paused to consider if we should really want them to. It won’t make me the most popular kid in class to say so, but I’d rather see us spend some time making sure those eligible to vote have a little education first, maybe a few critical thinking skills, and then send them off to the voting booth. Personally, I’d be curious to see what kind of results we’d have if the electorate was educated, had a vested interests in ensuring the government was effective and efficient, and didn’t have a large percentage of participants whose only expectation was getting more free stuff while other people pay the bills. I’m just an idealist like that.

Shit sandwich, or The election of 2016…

By this time next week the presidential election of 2016 will theoretically be over. The polls will be closed, anyway. Getting to the final results of the election may well drag out for weeks after that. But at least the coverage will shift from the electoral horserace to an dirty hot mess in the judicial system. Then we can crank the nastiness on both sides all the way up to eleven. Sigh.

Until today I was all set to cast my vote for the Libertarian candidate. I say was because this morning I saw that the Libertarian vice presidential candidate offered up an interview that turned into more than a passing attempt at defending the actions of the Democratic candidate for president for failing to protect sensitive and classified electronic information, going so far as calling her a “person of good moral character.” That leaves me with a very large question mark when it comes to Bill Weld’s judgment and suitability to serve as Vice President. If he really does think mishandling this type of information is no big deal, I can’t in good conscience give him my vote any more than I could give it to Hillary Clinton herself.

My philosophies generally tend to run libertarian. If a man wants to get his jollies with another man, it doesn’t hurt me. If a person wants to snort cocaine on their bathroom floor until their nose falls off, again, it’s no harm to me. This country use to be about maximizing the liberty of the individual and should be again, since we have seen time after time that the solution of adding more government so regularly causes more harm than good.

Although I strongly supported John McCain’s candidacy, his selection of Sarah Palin as his running made cost him my vote in 2008. I simply couldn’t abide her religio-right wing views. If I’m to maintain my intellectual consistency, how can I not then deny Gary Johnson my vote when his running mate proves similarly unsuited to the office in my estimation?

The Johnson-Weld ticket was my refuge of last resort in an election season of discontent. I will not cast my vote for Hillary Clinton. Weld’s commentary has made my assumed vote for Gary Johnson nearly untenable. So I’m left with the Republican candidate who I find profoundly objectionable for any number of other reasons.

So does anyone want to remind me how you go about eating a shit sandwich?

What I believe…

The scope and power of all levels of government should be limited and the burden of maintaining that government should be a cost borne by all Americans, from the poorest to the wealthiest. The rights guaranteed by the Constitution are not simple recommendations, but the absolute and highest law of the land and must be aggressively defended against those who seek to deny them. Protecting the territorial integrity of the United States is the single most important obligation of the federal government. The only JW16.pngappropriate legitimate “path to citizenship” involves respecting the following the laws and regulations governing immigration. Government should have no voice in defining love – or even lust – between two consenting adults. Locking people up for smoking marijuana is stupid. A woman’s right to access a relatively safe abortion has been the law of the land for over 40 years and it’s time we accept that. Our head of state is the president, not Jesus Christ, so let’s not pretend we want to live in that world unless we’re also willing to give Odin, Zeus, Mithras, Satan, and Buddha equal billing. The guy next door, or the one in the next county over, doesn’t owe you a damned thing. The only thing you as an individual are owed is the opportunity to be happy and successful, but that depends largely on how hard you’re willing to work and what you’re ready to sacrifice to reach your goals.

As it turns out, there isn’t a candidate in the 2016 presidential election who hits all those check boxes. I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because I’ll never be convinced by equivocating investigators that she’s not an unindicted felon. I fundamentally disagree with her positions on so many issues of importance to me and deep down I just don’t trust her. Plaudits from the current administration that labeled her “the best qualified candidate in the history of the republic ever,” surprisingly did nothing to assuage my distrust. Representing the party I find myself most often aligned with, I have Donald Trump… the candidate who started off as an interesting outsider who seems to become more unhinged with every passing afternoon. Despite agreeing that we need to build one big ass wall on the southern border, I can’t seem to find a way in good conscience to vote for a man who condemns prisoners of war and gold star families.

With all that said, I believe one more thing. I believe that the best candidate for the Presidency of the United States in 2016 doesn’t come cloaked as a Democrat or a Republican. Like the others, he doesn’t hit all of my sweet spots. In fact his draconian proposals for defense spending are directly opposed to my own self interest in continuing to be paid out of that big pot of money. This election can’t be about my paycheck. It has to be a matter of principle… and even though we disagree on a few issues I believe Gary Johnson is far more qualified to sit behind the Resolute desk than either huckster the major parties have presented to us.

On Tuesday, November 8th I’ll cast my vote for Gary Johnson for President and Bill Weld for Vice President. I hope you’ll consider doing the same. I believe it’s the only reasonable and responsible option left to us.