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.

The hundred days…

Dear America,

Donald Trump has been president now for (almost) 100 days. Civilization has not collapsed. We’ve not all been forced to start speaking Russian. There are still 50 states. And as far as I can tell, not one left-leaning celebrity has actually carried through with their promise to leave the country.

From my vantage point, the country isn’t all that much different than it was at 11:59AM on January 20th. The Democrats in Congress are fighting a long war of attrition hoping to gain ground during the mid-terms. The Republicans in Congress are at war with themselves. No major legislation has been passed and we’re racing towards another impending government shutdown at the end of the month. Abortion is still legal. Everyone can still get married. And states still don’t have to recognize the 2nd Amendment.

The 25% of the population who think’s President Trump can do no wrong are the same 25% of the population who thought President Obama could do no right. The 25% of Americans who think President Trump can do no right are the same ones who though President Obama could do no wrong. The 50% of us in the middle are still utterly perplexed by the extremists on both flanks.

Our politics is brutal and ugly, but the market keeps ticking along flirting with Dow 21,000. Home sales are brisk. Unemployment continues to trend down through the statistical area known as “full employment.”

FDR, with the help of a willing Congress, set a ridiculous standard for the first hundred days of a new presidency. In contrast, Lincoln saw seven states leave the Union before he was even sworn in to start a hundred day countdown. All I’m saying is that the first 2400 hours of an administration may not be the single best tool by which we measure where we are and how it’s going.

My suspicion is there have been far better and far worse times to be both alive and American simultaneously… but that it’s neither as bad nor as good as some of us think it is in the moment.

Best regards,

Jeff

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.

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.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Week in and week out this space is reserved with near epic exclusivity for What Annoys Jeff this Week? As the only recurring feature of this blog and almost always the most read thing that ends up here every week, you can understand that I’m hard pressed to move it for any reason. I write that intro purely to highlight how strongly I have to feel about something to deviate from years long precedent. Fortunately, I also find this week’s issue an annoyance, but one deserving a post all its own rather than as part of a set.

In the wake of the election the memes have flowed hot and heavy from both sides of the political spectrum. The one that’s sat worst with me, though, is one that extorts Trump supporters to explain their vote to their gay, foreign, black, or otherwise non-white friends and then proclaims them to be bigots, xenophobes, and racists. The internet hasn’t done much for the fine art of subtlety.

Let me be clear on this: I cast my vote in the 2016 presidential election for Donald Trump. He was not my first choice. In fact he was not even my second choice. On the morning of election day, however, he was the only one of the field of candidates with a chance to win that even remotely represented a slate of issues that I find non-negotiable. He also opens his mouth and often spews a whole laundry list of ideas that I find morally abhorrent.

I like to think that my gay, foreign, black, and otherwise non-white friends are bright enough to understand that I don’t cast my vote on any single issue. I hope they understand that the world is a complex place, far too complex to be governed by just one or two issues. I hope they If they don’t, my words here are wasted. If their minds are closed to any ideas beyond their own, likewise, these words are wasted.

I’ve spent the last eight years alternately condemning and supporting policy ideas put forward by President Obama. I spent the eight years before that condemning and supporting policies put forward by President Bush. I have every intention of continuing that trend beginning on January 20th when Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th President of the United State. If my thoughtful and objective analysis of policy issues isn’t sufficient to pass whatever stringent standards someone establishes for themselves and their circle, well then, I suppose I’ll be able to live with that too. I don’t now nor do I intend to expect my friends to think as one hive mind. If you’re my friend and that’s what you expect of me, I’m afraid you’re going to find me a terrible disappointment. Even so, I won’t apologize for that.

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.

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?