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100 Below: Harry’s Midlife Crisis

It had been a difficult year for Harry. Work was a drag. Ginny hadn’t been herself. He was at a low point. He wondered how he could get out of the doldrums. Then it came to him. Harry arranged a “work” trip to Hogwarts. Using his invisibility cloak, he snuck through the castle to the Room of Requirement. When he got there he found a chair and waited. He started to nod off when it happened. Two lovely, frisky, French girls appeared. After a few hours his requirements were met.

Whereupon We Write About the Confederate Flag & Free Speech.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, for this update, will drop his familiar 3rd person narrative in favor of the more traditional 1st person blogger voice. So… Be prepared.

I write today about the vapors gripping our nation. We are all caught in a collective fit of apoplexy that is fracturing our already fractured nation. Of course, I’m speaking about the controversy over the Confederate Flag. Not the first Confederate national flag, but the Confederate Battle flag.

Let me get a few items out of the way first. I was born in Virginia. I love my native state. I love Virginia as much – and perhaps more – than the next guy. But, (as they say in the South) my people were not from the south. My people came to Virginia after WWII. They were from Ohio and Pennsylvania mostly. I am unaware of any relatives who fought in the US Civil War for the Confederacy. I am sure that if I bothered to look, I’d find some. But the relatives known to me who fought, fought for the USA. If my family history disqualifies me in your mind from reading further, great. Leave. Please don’t return. You are part of the problem here.

Having established a little bit of my background let me go further. When I was young, I was more interested in the Civil War than I am now. I was most interested in the Civil War from age 10 – 14. During those years I visited battlefields and read books on the war. I had respect for Robert E. Lee. I viewed him as a tragic figure. He was torn between his love of Virginia and his love of the United States. Ultimately, his state won out. And though he fought on the losing side, he was a good man. So I thought. This was due in large part to the hagiography that surrounds him. For a young kid who wasn’t thinking critically, what is not to like about this image of Robert E. Lee? He was from a good family. He was exceptional at West Point. He loved his wife and family. He served his nation. Then when faced with a tough situation he made a bad call, but still served honorably. Upon being defeated he did what he could to foster peace and reconciliation and lived out his life as a teacher.

That was all fine and good for a boy, but as I grew my views on Robert E. Lee and the Civil War changed. The first thing that no rational, informed and educated person can get past is slavery. The war was about slavery. There is no way around it. States’ Rights? You mean the right of the States to preserve slavery. Protecting your homes from invaders? They invaded because you started a war in order to preserve slavery. “My ancestors didn’t own slaves” they fought to protect themselves how about that? They fought to protect themselves, and to protect the people who wanted to preserve slavery. Every single argument about the cause of the Civil War boils down to slavery. That is it. Stick a fork in it. It’s done. It’s been done for 150 years. It is all slavery.

What about Robert E. Lee you ask? Well… As I grew up I realized that no matter how you cut it, the Civil War is about slavery. Robert E. Lee broke an oath he swore to his nation (the United States of America) when he accepted his commission in the army. After breaking that oath he did not stay at Arlington House and hope for the best (which I would consider somewhat honorable). He decided to take up arms against his former nation (the one he’d sworn to protect with this life) and fight to preserve a nation based on the institution of slavery. Ultimately, I can’t support that.

I have found myself admiring another Virginian of the time. George Henry Thomas. He was born and raised in Virginia. His family had deep roots in the Commonwealth. He went to West Point, he received his commission. He fought for the United States of America. When secession came he was offered the position of Chief of Ordinance in Virginia – and likely would have been a senior flag officer in the Confederate army. But, he realized he’d taken a vow to support, protect, and defend the United States of America. He stayed loyal to the nation and was disowned and disavowed by his family. (NB: So strong was the approbation in which his sisters held him that they refused a wagon full of supplies sent to them after Lee’s surrender from a Union officer on behalf of their brother stating that their brother was dead and they had no need of supplies from strangers.) Thomas was one of the most outstanding generals in the Union army, and, to this day, one of the least appreciated and least admired. He’s the Civil War era Virginian I admire. (NB: George Henry Thomas’ 199th birthday is coming up. It is Friday, July 31. Raise a glass to him. I will be.)

The strangest thing happened after the Civil War though. It was the losers who somehow seemed to win the public relations battle in the South. The losers wrote history after history and biography after biography and memoir after memoir all promoting the whole “moonlight and magnolia” view of the “Old South” and its “Lost Cause.” They whitewashed the reasons for war and promoted a romanticized view of life before the war. Consequently, generations of Americans grew up thinking that the South was full of huge plantations. On those plantations they had huge dances weekly and lived a genteel life. All the while the plantation owners were supporting their noble slaves who were happy in their place and well treated. Of course this isn’t real history. Before anyone objects, sure there might have been outliers in the South for which my description is, in part, accurate. But for every one “good” master there were many more James Henry Hammonds. (Google him if you don’t get the reference.) And frankly the big plantations were less common than one would think. Most farmers were small freeholders with zero or one slave. And regardless of how many slaves a person owned, the problem with the whole equation is that there is still a slave in the equation. No matter how benevolently one treats a slave, the person is still enslaved. Teach a slave to read, and the slave is still a slave. Work beside them in the field and share meals with them, the slave is still a slave. There is no getting around it.

So… We have a Civil War that is about slavery. We have a bitterly divided nation. We have the losers writing their side of the story. And we have the loser’s side winning the PR battle. (NB: I should be specific. The losing side wins the PR battle among white people after the war. I don’t want anyone to think that they won the PR war in the community of people they fought to keep enslaved.)

After the war the winners and the losers start to memorialize the war. Hardly a county seat or city hall in all the land didn’t have a statue or monument close-at-hand that didn’t commemorate the men of that locality that fought in the Civil War. They are all over the South. Frankly, they are all over the North too. (NB: In a funny historical turn, companies made good money on those monuments. If you study them closely you will see “standard model” solider statues all over.)

Not only are there monuments, but if you live in Virginia (as I do) there are cemeteries. There are “Confederate” cemeteries and there are “Federal” cemeteries. They are divided up just as you would gather from the names. Confederate soldiers buried in the one and Union soldiers buried in the other. They are separated forever in death as they were at their last moment.

So life goes on for about 90 years or so from the end of the war…

During those 90 years there starts to be a transformation of views among many white Southerners. That transformation is that all those ancestors that fought for the South were good and noble men who fought for a noble but losing cause and they weren’t all that bad anyway. Let me say this strongly and clearly now. Your ancestor that fought for the Confederacy wasn’t necessarily a bad or evil person; but they were wrong. They fought for a wrong cause – whatever their motivation. They lost, and they should have lost. (In fact there is inevitability to their loss.) It is hard to accept that an ancestor might have fought and died, or fought and suffered, for a bad cause. But they did. It is hard to keep in one’s mind the dual belief that one’s ancestors were good people despite fighting for a bad cause. It is easier to make an excuse for them. But the facts don’t support the excuse. It is hard to live with unpleasant truth, but sometimes living with unpleasant truth is all there is to live with.

So nearly 100 years after the Civil War what happens? We get the Civil Rights movement. And that is where our modern problems about the Confederate Battle flag start to come to the fore. That is when people who objected to the Civil Rights movement started flying the Confederate Battle flag everywhere they could. All those monuments I wrote about a moment ago, they got flags. State houses in the South got flags. Some states even put the Confederate Battle flag in their state flag. It was done to protest Civil Rights. Those flags weren’t there prior to the Civil Rights movement. They appeared because of the Civil Rights movement. The people responsible for this said it was all about “heritage, not hate” and that no one should take offence. But the timing makes the move rather transparent.

I do not doubt (or perhaps I don’t want to doubt) that today, in 2015, many people honestly believe that the Confederate Battle flag isn’t a symbol that at its core represents a fight to preserve slavery. But that belief is not supported by facts. The Confederate Battle flag stands for the Confederate States of America and the CSA was founded, built, fought, and perished over the issue of slavery. You can’t get around it. You shouldn’t get around it. It is what it is.

(NB: I don’t want to diminish the genuine suffering that everyone in the South experienced after the Civil War. Particularly in Virginia. I know, personally, many people who can cite the deprivation their ancestors were subjected to after the war. Where armies moved in Virginia the land was denuded. I know this because in my own home of Stafford County, VA there is hardly a tree in the whole county that is more than 150 years old. Why? Because every tree for miles around was cut down by one army or the other to build camps and to keep fires going. Farms were destroyed, livestock taken, and life made awful. It all happened. But, none of this changes the basic fact that the war was about slavery and that suffering after the war doesn’t give one the right to selectively create the history of the era.)

Now we come to 2015 and after a terrible mass-murder in Charleston, South Carolina we are met with a fit of national apoplexy over the Confederate Battle flag…

Let me just come out and state where I stand on this. The Confederate Battle flag should not be flown over public buildings or monuments, excepting Civil War battlefields, Civil War cemeteries or other places where the flag fits in a Civil War era appropriate historical situation. What does this mean practically? That flag shouldn’t fly over the Grand Canyon National Park. It can be flown over the Gettysburg National Battlefield. It shouldn’t fly over the South Carolina statehouse or anywhere on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse (even near a monument to Civil War dead on the grounds of the statehouse). It can be flown over the “White House of the Confederacy” in Richmond, VA. It shouldn’t be flown over a National Cemetery with the dead of many different US wars. It can be flown over a Confederate cemetery that dates to the time of the Civil War. I do not object to small Confederate Battle flags being displayed on the individual graves of soldiers who fought and died under the Confederate States of America even if they are buried in a National Cemetery with the dead of many wars. (If the grave in question were the grave of a veteran of the CSA who died after the war I’ll grant you it is a hazy area where my inclination is to forego the Confederate Battle flag in favor of a US flag – as the veteran died as a citizen of the United States of America.)

Let me go a step further. Should those monuments I keep writing about come down or be moved. No. Absolutely not. They are sacrosanct. I don’t care if they have the battle flag displayed in stone, or bronze or whatever medium that is part and parcel of the monument itself. I don’t favor adding a flag – or maintaining a flag as part of that monument. Should we take down signs announcing that a particular burying ground is a “Confederate” cemetery? No. Should we dig up the remains of Confederate soldiers and move them to remote places where they are out-of-site? No.

Then we start to get into the more hazy areas concerning the Confederate Battle flag. Should retailers not sell the flag? That is entirely up to the retailer. If they don’t want to, don’t. If they do, by all means proceed. Should NASCAR ban the flying of the Confederate Battle flag at their events? They could. Frankly, that is, like retailers, up to them. I don’t care much one way or the other. Should states (like Virginia) ban the flag on commemorative automobile license plates? As I understand it, the license plate is actually property of the state (even though you, the car owner, pays for it). Thus, the license plate, like the grounds of a statehouse, the flag should go. Should the United States Congress start removing statues of Civil War era figures or Confederate imagery from the Capitol building? No, I don’t think so.**

**Excursion here: There is the matter of Statuary Hall in the US Capitol building. It is my understanding that each state of the Union is invited to donate two statues to be displayed there. It is the choice of each state which native son/s or daughter/s are to be displayed. Virginia has chosen to send only one statue – that of Robert E. Lee. Mississippi sent Jefferson Davis and James Zachariah George. Georgia sent Alexander H.H. Stevens. These are, in my opinion, poor choices. But rather than Speaker Boehner or a Committee of the House of Representatives telling the states to choose others, I’d prefer to see the states discuss swapping them out for others. If the states choose not to… That is okay by me. But let’s have a civil discussion of the matter.

Then we get into another area where flying the Confederate Battle flag isn’t a matter of question to me. That is the flying, or other display of the flag, on private property by normal citizens. If you want to fly a Confederate Battle flag, by all means fly it. If you want to paint it on your house, please do so. If you want it on your car or truck, display away. Frankly, I would take the same position if you wanted to fly a British flag, Canadian flag, French flag, Russian flag, Daesh flag, Nazi flag, butterfly flag, University of Alabama flag, UVA flag, “Happy Spring!” flag, or any other flag. Fly away. That is your right. (NB: My house currently has the Bennington flag displayed outside. I happen to like this flag a lot. It is one of my favorite of all of the historical flags of the US. I also have a Royal Standard of Scotland that I’ve flown from time to time. I also have a modern US flag that I fly often.)

You know what isn’t your right? It isn’t your right to say to another citizen that they can’t fly the flag on their land because it upsets you or gives you the vapors or makes you feel funny in the tummy. If the site of a flag causes your bowels to churn and your vision go blurry – you need to put away the pacifier, put on some grown-up clothes and get a life.

Because we’ve reached a point in US society that things have to be spelled out clearly because people are whiney about their feelings here is me spelling it out. The Confederate Battle flag can (and often should) be construed to support the Confederate States of America – a political entity that no longer exists and was founded to support and further slavery. The flag is appropriately displayed on public lands where it fits a specific historical context. Outside of this specific historical context, the flag should not be displayed on public lands or buildings. There cannot, and should not be, a prohibition on its display by private individuals on private land or vehicles.

To illustrate this point… A few miles away from me, another citizen of Stafford County has displayed a Confederate Battle flag. Not just a regular one. A big one. A very VERY big one. The flag is on a 90 feet tall pole. The flag itself is 22 feet high and 30 feet long.*** The flag pole is located right off Interstate 95 and is visible to everyone driving by in both directions. (Though it is more visible for a longer period on the northbound side.) Don’t believe me? Here it is this morning in a photo taken from my car.
Confederate Battle Flag of 95
Does this huge flag bother me? Yes, it does. I think it gives visitors and passers-by the wrong impression of my locality. But should the flag be taken down because it is offensive? No it shouldn’t. As much as it might upset me being there, it is the property owner’s right to fly it there (since it is flown with all the legal permits for a display that size). Just because people are offended doesn’t give those offended people the right to command him to remove the flag. This is, for me – and should be for you too I think – a free speech issue.

Free speech is coming to the point where it is an all or nothing proposition in this nation. Nothing has infuriated me recently as much as my fellow Americans getting gamy-handed and weak-willed on free speech. Take for example, Muslims try to kill people outside Dallas because of a draw the Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest – gotta be the fault of the people putting on the contest right? They were asking for it, right? WRONG AND WRONG AGAIN! It is the fault of the ignorant sacks of shit that were trying to kill the people at the cartoon event. Another example, opinionated people whose opinions differ from those of “mainstream” liberalism at college campuses being “disinvited” to speak (after invitations were offered) because students and/or faculty disagree with the views of the speaker. (NB: I am writing specifically here about Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her case is tragically emblematic of this trend around the United States.) I am embarrassed to have to write how wrong this is. But here it goes anyway. If listening to someone express views that differ from your own, even if you find them deeply offensive, fill you with outrage to a degree that you are unable to function or carry on, then you are a mentally weak and I’d prefer you be disfranchised quickly because you obviously don’t have the wherewithal to participate in a democratic republic.

If a person with controversial views cannot speak on a college campus in the United States of America about their views, we are good and truly doomed as a republic. When students are so mentally frail that they have to censor people who dare to differ from them in the greatest (or least) way, those students do not deserve to be graduated or get a diploma.

When I wrote a few lines ago that free speech is an all or nothing proposition, I mean it is coming to that. I think that reasonable people can agree on limitations on free speech in a civil society. The clearest example of this is the proverbial “to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre” prohibition because of the possible public safety issue. I think we can agree that libel can be prohibited – because it is, by definition, telling a falsehood. But beyond immediate public safety or telling lies, limiting free speech is a very dangerous idea. Especially when you are trying to limit free speech on the basis of your “feelings.”

I am sorry that many black people feel oppressed, insulted, or sick to their stomachs when they see a Confederate Battle flag. I am offended as well. But neither of our feelings should trump the right of the person flying the flag to fly the flag. If a person wants to be offensive, that is their right. Once we start using peoples “feelings” as the arbiter of what speech is acceptable and what speech isn’t we are in a pretty dark and bitter place. Big Brother is, in that case, only a few steps and perhaps a stumble away.

In this whole flag debate, and in the debates about speech on college campuses many seem to want the “right” to be free from offence or outrage. That isn’t a right. It never has been and never should be. I am, frankly, completely outraged that someone, ANYONE, is tempted to limit the speech of others on the grounds that someone (even me) might be offended. I am perfectly capable of determining what offends me and what outrages me. When I hear it I’ll react accordingly. But when you try to say, “You can’t listen to so-and-so speak because their ideas are offensive” my heckles go up and I would like to defenestrate you from a tall building.

(NB: I wonder if this little epistle of mine needs its own trigger warning because of my use of hyperbole in threatening people with defenestration and denial of college degrees. By the way, the very concept of a “trigger warning” makes me think people who need them are so infantile that I want to make them wear some sort of modern scarlet letter so that I can give them a wide berth.)

Basically, this whole Confederate Battle flag thing has brought out the worst in over-reaction and hysteria when it comes to free speech. Sadly, very few people of the left appear to be concerned over this broader issue. Just as sad is that many on the right as just as content as their leftist friends to over-react. No one seems to be out there saying “Okay, the flag at the South Carolina Statehouse is wrong, but there has got to be a limit to all this.” I suppose if falls to erstwhile bloggers to stand up and say stop.

Carry on.

***Just a little pet peeve of mine that has gone unwritten to this point, but I feel I have to get off my chest. The Confederate Battle flag is a square – not a rectangle. The flag is equally high as it is wide. All these Confederate Battle flags that are longer than they are tall annoy me on principle.

UPDATE ON 7/15/15: A friend of your Maximum Leader pointed out to me yesterday night that the Confederate Naval Jack (which is the same design as the Confederate Battle flag) is actually longer than it is tall. Thus he believes that the flag that everyone seems to be displaying all over is actually a replica of the Confederate Naval Jack. While I think this is a bit of a stretch, I’ll go with it… For now at least…

800 and 46

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader actually started to write a post. Actually there are, he sees, three draft posts in the hopper. If he can bring himself to finish them it will be a startling output for this blog given his recent posting habits.

Before today was out, June 15, 2015, he did want to make note (in passing) of today being the 800th Anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta. Much hay is being made today about Magna Carta and what it does or doesn’t mean in the grand scheme of history and the Anglo-American legal/constitutional system. You have pedants who declaim that we, today, put much more value on the document than it was granted from 1215 to the 19th Century. Others say that Magna Carta is one in a long line of charters that all form the basis of the British Constitution. Still others say it is the bedrock upon which all of the British Constitution rests.

As with most claims of this sort, there is a kernel of truth to them all. Your Maximum Leader, personally, likes to think of Magna Carta as the first significant step towards our modern concept of liberty. Although only three clauses of Magna Carta still hold sway in Britain (chief among them the “right” of habeas corpus - a right for which all of us in the west should be thankful), it was the process of reissuing the charter over the reigns of monarchs after King John and the slow expansion of rights that are what we are celebrating today.

In case you want to read more here are some links for ye:

The Economist has a short piece for you.

Here is the Prince of Wales’ speech about Magna Carta at the opening of an exhibit on the charter at the British Library.

Here is a piece on the “myths” of Magna Carta.

This is another great piece in The Economist on Magna Carta and William Marshall. (Don’t know who William Marshall is? You can click here to find out about one of Medieval England’s greatest Lords from Wikipedia or (even better) Badass of the Week.)

Take a moment today to lift a glass (of wine, beer - your choice) and toast the Great Charter.

Oh yes… And if you care to know… Today is also your Maximum Leader’s 46th birthday. He mentions this because when he was dating Mrs Villain (years ago) she asked what his birthday was. He wouldn’t tell her. She asked for a clue. He responded that his birthday was on the same date as Magna Carta being sealed in 1215. She was quite cross when she had to find a history book and look up the date when he wouldn’t relent and just tell her.

Carry on.

Groan

Groan.

Stretch.

Groan.

Creak. Snap.

Smack.

Groan.

Are these the sounds of something coming awake?

The More Things Change…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has found himself wondering about his political leanings. It would be wrong to say that the old lark from Ronald Reagan hasn’t crossed his mind a few times. You remember the one. Reagan said that he didn’t leave the Democrat party, the Democrat party left him. Well… It isn’t quite the same, but your Maximum Leader wonders exactly how his own political views, and they apply in a practical way in America today, have changed.

At some level your Maximum Leader doesn’t think his politics have changed much. But political discourse (such as it is) has gone in a way that he just doesn’t care for. Your Maximum Leader would still call himself a Conservative in almost all cases. He thinks he is more a Conservative with Libertarian tendencies. In some instances he would even call himself a Republican.

Your Maximum Leader finds himself looking at the Presidencies of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon and seeing more and more that he likes. Of course, he says the same thing when looking at Ronald Reagan. Sometimes he looks back at the great Theodore Roosevelt and sees a lot to like.

They were, compared to today, different ages.

Your Maximum Leader recalls some old line that goes something to the effect that “the next Marlon Brando wont be anything like the last Marlon Brando. We should say the same thing about the “next Ronald Reagan.” He’ll not be anything like the last one. In large part because he doesn’t have to be. Reagan’s time is gone. It is fading, even now, into distant history. Your Maximum Leader’s children are being taught (poorly in many cases) about history that your Maximum Leader remembers living through. The next Reagan doesn’t need to win the Cold War; that is done. The next Nixon doesn’t need to open China or start Detente with the Soviets; that is past. The next Eisenhower doesn’t need to end the Korean War, build interstate highways and stabilize the West after WWII; that was done (but is coming undone). The next Theodore Roosevelt doesn’t need to bust trusts, build a great Navy, flex US muscles and move forward Progressive reforms; done (but perhaps coming undone).

It was in thinking about the past that your Maximum Leader had a little mini-epiphany about his politics. The problem with politicians, at least of the right, is they don’t seem to be forward looking. Your Maximum Leader has for years admired the old William F. Buckley adage of standing athwart history yelling stop. As your Maximum Leader has grown older he’s come to believe that politicians of the right have got to not only yell stop; but suggest a path forward. That path forward cannot just be an exhortation to go back to the way things were.

Your Maximum Leader is guilty, as he suspects we all are to some degree, of looking back more fondly on a remembered past that is remembered better than it was lived. He finds he has to lift the gauze from his own memories when looking backwards and be more critical of what he sees in the past. He must strive to find balance. A balance that needs to be restored across the board. The past is never quite as good or bad as one wants to make it out to be. The 50’s might not have been the greatest time in history for women or minorities in America - when compared to 2015. But the 50’s in America for women and minorities was better than the 1930s, 1920s or 1880s for them.

So what does all this have to do with your Maximum Leader’s politics?

Well… Certain core items have not changed at all (or at least not very much) for your Maximum Leader. He still is a strong believer of limited government. He is a strong believer in personal liberty and freedom. His first reaction to appeals to the “greater common good” is skepticism and negativity. But how these all pan out in America today seem to be changing…

Let us say that your Maximum Leader has decided, for himself of course, that there are things the government needs to do. And in those things it must do them well. To do them well may not always mean to do them cheaply, or in a way that makes everyone feel good about themselves. It means do them well…

Let us take a few broad items that most people living in the United States would consider things the government should do… And since, in the United States we live under a multi-tiered government let me start with the lowest level of government. One’s county or state government.

As Government teachers (aka: Political Scientists - a term for which your Maximum Leader has a fair degree of contempt to be honest) have lamented for ages, local government has the most affect on a person’s daily life - and is the one to which most people pay the least attention. Your local government is most likely responsible for a few things that are remarkably important for the functioning of civilization. Police & Fire/Rescue, education, and property use. If your county is anything like mine, it is funded by property taxes. Your taxes go to provide for Police & Fire/Rescue, local schools, and how your county is “developed.” Your Maximum Leader thinks that we can all agree that most people are in favor of Police & Fire/Rescue services. All but the most hardcore libertarians and anarchists are in favor of them at any rate. And most people would want those services to be provided by well-trained, well-equipped and competent people. That training, equipment and recruitment and retention of people all comes from your tax money. When you don’t want to pay those taxes, your Police/Fire/Rescue services all suffer. The same goes for education. If you want well-trained, well-equipped and competent teachers; you have to shell out some money in taxes. In fact, your Maximum Leader is happy to pay a few cents more on the dollar in real estate tax in order to assure that the Policemen, Firemen, Rescue Teams and Teachers are the best possible. It seems a little fool-hearty to save $100 a year in property taxes if it means that good teachers are going to leave the county for more money in the next county over… Then there is property usage… If you like green hills, wood and rolling farmland in your neck of the woods, then you have to pay for that too. Your Maximum Leader is sure that your county has laws on the books telling you what you can and can’t do with your land. Those same laws tell developers what they can build in your county. Those laws need enforcement - enforcement costs money. If you don’t want a 500 home community going in across the road from your house, that costs money too. It costs you in more property taxes. If your county can’t develop land, and you still want them to provide services; it will cost you more. You are paying the opportunity cost of not having 500 neighbors (all paying property taxes) across the road from you.

NB on Education: Here is a libertarian streak your Maximum Leader has. Public education. As a society we seem to have come to the common agreement that it is the role of government to fund and provide education to all. Your Maximum Leader is a strong supporter of education as the bedrock upon which a strong republic rests. But he honestly isn’t committed to the idea that the government has to provide that education. He is completely open to the government not collecting any of his money to support education and having the free market provide schools and educational opportunities for children and adults. Your Maximum Leader is sure this idea is a complete non-starter. But he wants to throw out there that there are some things the government DOES that it DOESN’T NECESSARILY HAVE to do. Your Maximum Leader’s point here is that if the government is going to do something - particularly at the level closest to me and most responsive to my input - it ought to do it well. If the state is going to do a half-assed job of educating children; then perhaps the state shouldn’t educate children.

NB on Education Part Deux: If there are any “liberals” reading this (which frankly your Maximum Leader highly doubts); you guys do a lot of complaining about “religious freaks” taking over school boards and “getting rid of science” to teach “intelligent design” or “creationism.” Do you all know how to stop this from happening? Vote in a friggin’ election for school board you morons! Take my own voting district in my county. In the last election for our school board member (2013), there were 5,058 votes cast. The winner won by a margin of 449 votes. For comparative purposes, Barack Obama garnered 5,380 votes in the same district in 2012 and lost to Mitt Romney (who got 6,707 votes). If you are fearful that your school board is going to be “taken over” by “weirdos” it would help your cause to vote against the “weirdos.” For the record, my own school board member (Hey Scott!) is not a weirdo.

Moving up from the local government - the most essential level of government in your Maximum Leader’s opinion - is the state government. As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows, your Maximum Leader is generally well-disposed to his state government. Sure he thinks that his current governor is a smarmy political hack; but our governor is only half of the equation. The legislature is the other half. And all in all the friction between the two is a good thing. Lets also think of things our state government does that everyone agrees it should do. Strangely enough we come back to police and education; but we add infrastructure to that as well. Of course your state does more than those items. Here in Virginia the Governor has wanted to dramatically increase the amount of Medicare spending (and take advantage of Federal dollars for the same). The legislature blocked that move on the grounds that the Feds might be paying now, but they probably will not be forever and once you take on the spending you can’t “un-take” it. (A position supported by your Maximum Leader by the way.) It is at the state level that one can really begin arguing over the role of government and what is should or shouldn’t support through your tax dollars. Your Maximum Leader generally favors spending on education and roads, and is less inclined towards other spending.

Of course, your Maximum Leader also realizes that we live in a republic and his voice is not the only voice in the conversation. So he recognizes that as much as he would often like complete stalemate and nothing be done (and nothing is often a wise and desirable political outcome) that isn’t going to happen. As much as he doesn’t like it, he lives with a Democrat Governor and a Republican Legislature and the two are going to have to compromise to get anything done. And here’s the rub… Something, even small things, has to get done. Ultimately the majority of people are going to be dissatisfied if nothing - truly nothing - gets done. They will cast the blame where they may; but in the end people aren’t going to stand for no schools, no roads, and no police/courts/prisons etc… The people will stand for “things aren’t changing this year from last year” but they will not stand for “everything is closed because we can’t agree.” Sometimes, in critical issues, half a loaf is better than no loaf. (We all prefer to get 3/4 a loaf of course, but is isn’t always going to happen. And people who are often stuck with the 1/4 loaf start to get mighty resentful…)

Then there is the Federal level. The most distant level of government. The most costly level of government. The most dysfunctional level of government. It is at the level of the Federal government that your Maximum Leaders beliefs have changed (he thinks) the least. The Federal Government of the United States is bloated, ineffective, and has its tentacles in things it has no business being in. Federal education policy - crap. Federal housing and urban development policy - crap. Indeed, in your Maximum Leader’s view the Federal government should be busy keeping the nation safe, conducting foreign affairs, broadly regulating interstate commerce and that is about it.

To read that last paragraph you are probably thinking that your Maximum Leader has lots in common with Herbert Hoover. Well… Yes and no… Certainly in an intellectual sense your Maximum Leader is rather aligned with that Pre-New Deal vision of America. But that America is gone. That America is not coming back. Ron Paul and all the Libertarians out there can burn me in effigy now. We aren’t going back to that era in our history…

This is where your Maximum Leader thinks that people of the Right need to have a vision of America moving forward. For years your Maximum Leader has (as Ronald Reagan did) advocate the elimination of the US Department of Education. Well… Guess what… It ain’t happening. But what could happen is that the Department of Education could be reformed and greatly reduced. It could be more of a US Department of Educational Resources and Standards. It could be like a think tank that state and local governments could access to make their own systems work more effectively. It could be a clearing house for ideas about Education.

Think about healthcare. The largest parts of the Federal budget are Medicaid and Medicare spending (and one supposes spending on the Affordable Care Act is in there too). Frankly these are areas that your Maximum Leader feels the Federal government shouldn’t be involved in. Period. But at this stage a full roll-back isn’t going to happen. It isn’t going to happen for Medicaid or Medicare. And frankly it is getting to the point were it isn’t going to happen with ACA either. A plan is needed by the Right to move forward. Your Maximum Leader liked a plan so much that he blogged about it back in 2004. Your Maximum Leader is saying that alternatives need to be out there - not just standing athwart history yelling stop.

So that’s the screed… Such as it is… Is your Maximum Leader growing more liberal in his old age? Probably not. Is he getting a little more nuanced? Perhaps. Is he feeling less and less like he can identify with politicians seeking to represent him? Certainly…

If some of your Maximum Leader’s more conservative friends feel the need to revoke his conservative card and drum him out of the movement… So be it. As you can read here… I denounce myself…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Political Leaning Quiz & Washington Quiz

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader saw, a few days (weeks?) ago a political quiz over on Kevin’s site. He is a sucker for these things so he took the quiz. Here are his results:

 on political map

No big surprise there. Of course, if you like you can take the test by clicking here.

Your Maximum Leader will say that he does think he is trending a little more “liberal” in some aspect of his thinking. But these “liberal” tendencies are manifesting themselves in local issues concerning school funding and real estate tax levels in his county…

Your Maximum Leader also hopes that you didn’t miss George Washington’s 283rd birthday. (Which was yesterday.) As readers (such as there may still be) know, your Maximum Leader is a huge fan of George Washington and believes that we (Americans) need to study him a little more in hopes of raising civic awareness (and perhaps even civic virtue).

Here are some quizzes to test your what you know about the Father of our Country.

Quiz 1 click here. (Your Maximum Leader scored 15 of 15 on this quiz.)

There is a second (harder) quiz on Washington. Quiz 2 (the smarty pants edition) is here. Your Maximum Leader (sadly) only got 12 of 15 on the really hard quiz. Though in his defense, of the three he missed, had narrowed the choices to the correct answer (that he didn’t choose) and an incorrect answer…

There you are. Toast George Washington and think about his service to our great nation…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

A Longer Than A Tweet Thought on the Oscars

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader did not watch the Academy Awards last night. In fact, he doesn’t watch award shows. He is more than satisfied (no really much more than satisfied) to read tweets about the show and catch a few highlights the next morning. That is about all he can take. Some highlights.

This weekend was all about Oscar though at the Villainschloss. There was some Oscar show on CNN that Mrs. Villain insisted on watching in full. Then she decided that the Oscar telecast was going to be more interesting than Mythbusters re-runs and last week’s episode of “The Americans.” Since your Maximum Leader wasn’t interested in watching (the generally fabulous) Neil Patrick Harris, et. al., doing their Hollywood thing, he retired to his bed and watched Mythbusters re-runs. (He occasionally checked Twitter to see what had been awarded.)

Well… This morning, Mrs. Villain was commenting on the various winners and production numbers. Then she threw out there “You know, I don’t understand why actors think they can lecture everyone on political stuff when they are up there getting their award. What qualifies them as experts on anything other than make-believe?” Your Maximum Leader responded that not wanting to be lectured on politics/current events/anything by actors is generally one reason why he doesn’t watch award shows. But he did note that actors are entitled to the same free-speech rights as the rest of us and can exercise it when they feel it is appropriate. But just because they have that right doesn’t mean they are more (or less) qualified to opine on an issue than anyone else. Sadly people may give disproportionate weight to the opinion of a celebrity because of the renown of the person making the comment. Your Maximum Leader is more likely to give more weight to the opinions of Elizabeth Warren on wage inequality than he would to those comments by Patricia Arquette; but both are welcome to comment on the issue.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader didn’t watch the show. But this week he is going to watch two nominated films. (The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman.)

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

La France

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been thinking a lot about France recently. You may believe that his ruminations on France began with the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and on the kosher grocery store in Paris. But you’d be wrong. Your Maximum Leader was thinking about France over the Christmas holiday. He’s been listening to a very good podcast on the French Revolution – as well as taking time to glance through some of the (sadly too few) books on French history he owns.

Part of what your Maximum Leader has been thinking about is how to work out his own feelings towards the French Republic…

As anyone who has spent any time with your Maximum Leader (or any time on this blog over the years) knows, he is not what one would call a Francophile. But, he’s not a Francophobe either. He’s viewed his own feelings towards France with mixed emotions over his life. Your Maximum Leader has not traveled to France, so will likely have some bearing on his feelings at some point but he should list off a few items for your consideration. Your Maximum Leader appreciates and loves many elements of French culture. He would be a liar if he didn’t say he loves French food (both “high” French and “Provençal” and “low” French food. He loves a lot of French art. (Like anyone, he likes some movements and not others.) And he loves the idea of the French lifestyle that is mostly stereotypically imagined by Americans and exists to a lesser extent every year in France. (You know what he’s talking about here. Going to the bakery for bread every day. Sitting and having an afternoon break at a café. Leisurely early evening meals, home cooked, around a big table with family.) Frankly, any your Maximum Leader might be an exception here, he’s never met and interacted with a French citizen that he didn’t like. (As an aside, your Maximum Leader doesn’t have many regrets about his college years; but one minor regret his has is not asking a French exchange student who attended his college out on a date. Long story, if you’re interested write him and he’ll tell you all about it…)

At the same time that your Maximum Leader has all of this good will built up on behalf of France, he also has some ill will. Or if not ill will, certainly less than positive will. Your Maximum Leader has mocked the French as “cheese eating surrender monkeys.” Of course that appellation isn’t completely fair, even in the context of World War II, if one understands the times in which France was surrendering… And he’s been annoyed by French foreign policy more times than he can remember. (The first one he can recall was Francois Mitterand refusing to let US bombers over-fly France to go after Quaddaffi in Libya back in the Reagan years… That is the first of many…) Your Maximum Leader thinks that institutions dedicated to the preservation of “true” French culture and language are sort of silly. (He’s looking at you Academie Francaise.)

So basically, your Maximum Leader loves “the French” but doesn’t always love “France.” He’s sure that many Frenchmen would say the same (or much the same) about “the United States of America” and “Americans.”

Then your Maximum Leader had an epiphany. A true a ha moment.

France is our beloved first cousin who always annoys the crap out of us.

Yup. That is it. Your Maximum Leader’s “France is the USA’s first cousin” political theory.

Hear him out on this.

Are you close with your first cousins? Your Maximum Leader means really close. Like you grew up in the same town. You see each other all the time, not just at the holidays. You go over to their house. They come to yours. You go on vacation together. You are always there with them. But, their upbringing isn’t quite the same. Though in the same town, you go to different schools. You get involved in different activities. Perhaps you go to different churches (or no church at all).

You are very similar, but in some very important ways very dissimilar. You might be a good kid and a conformer, but that cousin of yours just wants to buck the system when they can. You are a loyal boyfriend (or girlfriend) and your cousin is something of a playboy (Playgirl? “Playa?”) You do your homework all the time and get good grades, and your cousin is something of a slacker. You are serious, and your cousin is a clown. You love your cousin, you both get along and like to be together. But there are things your cousin does that are just a part of who they are – things they can’t change and don’t want to change; things that just annoy the shit out of you.

That is the Franco-American relationship.

Both nations are born of the Judeo-Christian Western tradition. Both were born in revolution. Both are constitutional republics that value liberty. And we both annoy the shit out of each other.

It annoys your Maximum Leader that the French want to be part of Europe, and part of NATO, and leaders in the world; but they have to do everything their way. Their way is one that often seems contrarian for the sake of being contrarian.

Your Maximum Leader has come to realize that the US needs France, and the world needs France. Your Maximum Leader would like nations to see the US as the ultimate leader on the side of history and civilization that favors individual liberty, individual rights and responsibilities, and equality for all under commonly determined law. But the world is not a simple place and many of the actors on the world scene, for some mad reason, don’t trust the US to be a fair actor. Perhaps this is a consequence of a cold war where everyone had to pick a side and stick to their side. During the Cold War, France did its best to present herself as a western alternative to both the US and USSR.

The more your Maximum Leader thinks on it, that Cold War role and how it has developed in the post-Cold War world is an important one. France is an important “pole” in the modern multi-polar world. If France gets on your Maximum Leader’s nerves from time to time, it is because they need to.

Anyhow… Those are some thoughts on France…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Happy New Year & German Babies

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes you a prosperous and happy 2015. The first few days of this new year haven’t been all that bad. Your Maximum Leader attended the NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park on January 1st. That game will go down as one of the best sports memories of his life. It was great at so many levels… If you are a hockey fan and have a chance to go to a Winter Classic; you should.

Of course, your Maximum Leader was prepared for a long day outside on January 1 because he got a good night’s sleep on the night of December 31 to January 1. Your Maximum Leader has decided that from now on he celebrates New Years according to Greenwich Mean Time. That meant that he was toasting the new year at 7:00pm local time. It worked out well because it was right in the middle of a nice dinner. Your Maximum Leader was able to enjoy a meal, have a drink, then take a leisurely shower and retire to bed and get a full night’s sleep. He woke at his normal time (feeling no worse for wear) and carried on throughout the day.

Yesterday was the day when, for reasons of convenience mostly, your Maximum Leader “celebrated” Christmas with his family. His parents and sister (and sister’s family) came to the Villainschloss. We dined on pork tenderloin and a host of sides. One of those sides was Yorkshire Pudding. While most people associate Yorkshire Pudding with roast beef, it really can be had with almost any land-based roasted protein.

Well… Your Maximum Leader’s family are real fans of Yorkshire Pudding. We tend to eat quite a bit of it when we have it. So your Maximum Leader made a huge batch of the pudding batter and cooked it up in batches as the family was together. By cooking in smaller pans and smaller batches the pudding is always fluffy and hot when it is consumed.

Anyhoo… Your Maximum Leader over prepared the batter and had quite a bit left uncooked at the end of the day. Mrs. Villain thought this was great because that meant that we could have “german babies” for breakfast the next day (which is today as I write this). Your Maximum Leader was taken aback. What were these “german babies” and why would we be eating them? It seemed a little much to start in on the cannibalism so soon in the new year and with our larder being pretty full. It was then that Mrs. Villain explained that close friends of hers growing up would make Yorkshire Pudding batter and cook the pudding in muffin tins and would take them from the oven and serve them for breakfast covered in maple syrup and confectioners sugar. This dish was known as a “german baby.”

This morning your Maximum Leader cooked up the last of the Yorkshire Pudding batter and did serve it up with maple syrup and confectioners sugar. It was pretty tasty all in all. Your Maximum Leader has even found a formal recipe for “german babies.” You can clicken here to see it. (And if you want a more glorified recipe there is one here. There is also a related Wiki page for “Dutch Baby Pancakes.”)

So there we are… Your Maximum Leader consumed german babies for breakfast this morning. And he liked it.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Twitter: @maximumleader

But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.

Greeting, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is taking a break from real life to wish you all (such number of ye as there may be) a Merry Christmas.

There is so much that your Maximum Leader would like to write about, but he finds little time. (A constant refrain in this space…) What have we learned this year? Well, apparently some grand juries will not indict a ham sandwich or a police officer. (Some) People apparently like to demonstrate and riot over grand jury decisions. Some students believe the mental toll of following the news entitles them to make-up exams. Russians can shoot down jets with impunity. Some national airways can lose whole jet aircraft. The President can act monarchally when it comes to immigration issues. US voters will be contrarian in voting. Petulant asian dictators can determine what films will be shown in US cinemas. And it is possible that your Maximum Leader might not have to wait for the death of the Castro Brothers to visit Cuba…

That is a lot of stuff…

But what does all of it speak to? Is there a greater point in any of this news? A few days ago your Maximum Leader tweeted (follow him on the Tweety-box @maximumleader) the following pithy line:

Your Maximum Leader’s best bud, Kevin, asked for a more expansive exposition on this little tweeted aphorism. (Then he got in a - deserved - dig about how this blog is never updated…) Well… Here is a little more on that thought…

First off, perhaps your Maximum Leader should have written: Civility is the spanx holding in the barbarism of humanity. This thought came to your Maximum Leader as he was sitting down contemplating why he is an observant Catholic. In a meandering stream of thoughts your Maximum Leader eventually thought back to a lecture he once heard (and took notes upon) in college. The theme of this particular lecture was how many upper-middle class Victorians in Britain had the foundations of their social thinking shaken by scientific advancements but continued to behave as they had “for the good of society.” To restate this, science had cast doubts on long-held traditional beliefs. Evolution is the chief example of this, shaking the belief of traditional Christian Creationism. While these people were having to try to sort out what the basis of civilization itself should be, they continued to do the things they’d always done - like going to church on Sunday, acting like gentlemen and ladies and all the other tell-tale outward signs of being civilized.

Your Maximum Leader started to think to himself that our civilization is a very tenuous thing. This isn’t a new thought to him, or others. But for some reason that day the thought weighed heavily on his mind. Then, his mind moved from the sublime to the silly. He imagined the “body” of all humanity being constrained by nothing more than some shaped spandex. Humanity’s true nature has to be hidden, shaped as best as possible actually, by a thin veneer of something else. Civility is that thin veneer that keeps all the fat and bulging of our corpulent humanity in any sort of shape. Of course, over time the spanx wear out and cease to hold in that which they are designed to hold in… Your Maximum Leader wonders if the spanx of our civilization isn’t being pretty sorely tested by the mass of barbarous fat straining to break free…

Of course, this time of year should not be spent dwelling on the unpleasantness in the world… We should try to elevate our thoughts and celebrate the possibility of humanity’s advancement. The Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar resets itself every year in Advent. One of the priests at your Maximum Leader’s parish suggested that like the church resetting the liturgical calendar each of us should try to reset our own personal quest towards living a life more in the image and likeness of Christ. Your Maximum Leader is sure that priests across the world, an ministers of every denomination, have preached the same message. Through our free will we have the potential for salvation. Your Maximum Leader wants to think this salvation is more than just spiritual salvation, but we can have societal salvation. We may not agree politically on items, but your Maximum Leader hopes that we in the United States (at least) can see the benefits our shared Anglo-Western-Judeo-Christian civilization and take steps to preserve it.

Oh… The silly things your Maximum Leader wishes for at Christmas…

Anyhoo…

Tis the season to read over the Gospel of Luke and perhaps contemplate its meaning. This year your Maximum Leader has been thinking a bit about Mary. Take this portion of Luke, Chapter 2:

8 And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock.
9 And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear.
10 And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people:
11 For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
14 Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
15 And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us.
16 And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.
17 And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child.
18 And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Your Maximum Leader has always been struck by verse 19. “Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.”

There is not much in the Bible about Mary. The passages directly mentioning her are very few. But there is always a gem in there. Your Maximum Leader’s money is on Luke 2:19 as the greatest of these gems. What does it say about a young girl that she should experience all she had and was still able to take in what she had seen and heard and ponder its meaning? If you aren’t a Christian, still take a moment to think through all this. Your Maximum Leader speculates that most young girls of the first century AD who had just delivered a baby under less than ideal circumstances might not be reticent and ponder their situation with the grace or poise that he reads in this verse. Of course, if you a Christian, there is a lot more going on in that one line.

Your Maximum Leader would like more people to keep the words they hear or read about and ponder them in their hearts. A little more pondering and little less talking and shouting might do us all a bit of good in preserving civilization.

And now… El Greco…
The Adoration by El Greco

Peace and goodwill to you all.

Carry on.

Triumphant (+209 years)

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader now posts for your viewing pleasure his annual tribute to Lord Nelson and the hearty Tars of the Royal Navy - the Victors of Trafalgar.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will be lifting his glass today to toast Admiral Lord Nelson and the hearty tars of the Royal Navy as he celebrates the 209th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

On this day in 1805, Lord Nelson led the fleet into combat against the combined French and Spanish fleets off Cape Trafalgar. By the end of the day the Franco-Spanish force was destroyed or driven to port. Any hope Napoleon had for invading Britain was dashed that day. The battle also resulted in about 100 years of complete naval supremacy by Britain over the seas of the world.

The late and very lamented hero of the hour:

Nelson himself.
Lord Nelson.

Nelson’s plan called for the fleet to be divided into two columns. The two columns would be sailed (under tremendous fire) into the Franco-Spanish line in a way that would bisect that line in two places.

Nelson

Before the battle Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, flew the following signal:

Nelson is shot
England expects that every man will do his D - U - T - Y.

And over the course of the day, every British sailor did his duty.

Nelson is shot
During the course of the fighting Nelson was killed by a sniper.

Nelson’s body was preserved in rum and returned to a joyful nation who interred the hero in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Nelson’s Tomb St.Paul’s
Nelson’s Tomb St.Paul’s

Your Maximum Leader hopes that all you Anglophiles (and lovers of the fruits of the Anglo-Western tradition that we continue to enjoy in the US) will remember the great service done on behalf of civilization by Lord Nelson and the men of the Royal Navy over two hundred years ago.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

This is why they play the games.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader stayed up well past his bedtime to watch what turned out to be the longest (by time played) playoff game in the history of baseball. Early this morning, your Maximum Leaders beloved Washington Nationals fell to the Giants of San Francisco by a score of 2-1 in an 18 inning game that lasted a tad over 6 hours.

The Nationals now trail in the best of 5 series 2-0. Game 3 is played in San Francisco on Monday.

It isn’t looking good for the Nationals. But, the joy of baseball is the unexpected outcomes it produces. You have to play the games to find out how it turns out. You can’t just write off teams that are down or because an opponent looks better on paper…

Your Maximum Leader hopes the Nationals pull off a three game win streak against the Giants…

And that is best thing about baseball… The hope.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

Los Nationales

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure if his title for this post is correct. He didn’t study Spanish and for some reason can’t remember the Spanish rendering of the name of his beloved Washington Nationals that he looks at almost every night of the season on the backstop behind home plate…

Anyhooo….

Woo hoo! The Nationals clinched the National League East pennant last night in Atlanta after a victory against the division rival Braves. It was wonderful. Tanner Roark pitched great. Clippard and Storen came in to close out the win. There was (cheap) champagne, beer, and sparkling juice for all in the clubhouse after. (NB: Your Maximum Leader knew that Bryce Harper didn’t drink - due to his youth and religious convictions. But he learned last night that Denard Span does not drink either. File that away as a propos of nothing one thinks.)

Now the Nationals have to win more games to gain home field advantage for the playoffs. He hopes they can capture the best record in the NL (in case it comes down to a Nationals v. Dodgers series). We’ll see how that goes.

The questions facing the team, as your Maximum Leader sees them, are these: 1) What to do with Ryan Zimmerman when he returns? 2) What to do with Soriano? and 3) What pitchers to keep/start in the playoffs. As for #1, Zim’s status will have to hinge on how he looks when he comes back next week. It is hard to see him riding pine as a bench guy, but that might be the best place for him if he can’t get enough starts in the 11 remaining games of the season. As for #2, has your Maximum Leader mentioned how much he cannot stand - CANNOT ABIDE AT ALL - Alfonso Soriano. He is the WORST CLOSER EVAH! What makes him the worst evan? He pitches to contact. What in the name of Pete do you do with a closer that pitches to contact? Closers pitch heat. Closers strike you out. Pitchers don’t put the ball in play and hope that the defense makes the play. Your Maximum Leader would not shed a single tear if Soriano didn’t make the postseason pitching roster. As for #3, as your Maximum Leader sees it, the three best starters on the team are Fister, J. Zimmermann and Roark. You need to have Gio Gonzalez in there for a lefty. But if you look at the whole season of work, Strasburg is the weakest of the starters. His win/loss record is mostly out of his control (the Nats hardly ever support Strasburg offensively during his starts it seems). But Strasburg gives up the long ball early. We don’t need to have him start with the jitters and give up one or two runs in the playoffs and have to battle back. If your Maximum Leader was doing a rotation for the playoffs it would be Fister, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Roark, Strasburg.

Well… Those are your Maximum Leader’s baseball musings for now… More as things develop.

The Nat’s curly “W”

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

More Musings on Scottish Independence

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader continues to ruminate on the idea of Scottish independence. Depending on who you read and believe, the “No” vote might still be ahead in the polls. Your Maximum Leader thinks it is generally agreed that it is pretty much neck and neck. It will be the proverbial photo finish.

As your Maximum Leader re-read his previous comments on this matter, he doesn’t have much new to say. He could (and will) point out some of the contradictions (or unreasonable aspirations) of the “Yes” campaign. Here are but a few: Scotland will be a member of NATO - but Scotland is going to throw out the nuclear sub bases from Glasgow and the Clyde. Those subs are a key part of NATO. Scotland will keep the pound - but the Bank of England isn’t going to give Scotland any control over the pound and Scottish banks are preparing to move south and to have to increase cash reserves. Scotland will be a part of the EU - but the EU says that Scotland will have to apply to join, a change of status isn’t going to cut it. (Also about the EU, the EU requires new members to adopt the Euro. So IF Scotland is allowed to join, they will use the Euro and have their monetary policy governed by the Bundesbank.) Scotland will have all the North Sea Oil money, and little of the UK’s debt - but England, Wales and Northern Ireland are going to (rightfully) insist that Scotland assume some portion of the debt.

If you’ve read anything about this campaign, you’ve heard all that. And if it didn’t convince you before, it didn’t convince you just then.

The more your Maximum Leader thought about it, the more he realized that Scottish independence is really another in a long line of “feel-good aspirational” movements. Frankly, as aspirational stories go, Scotland’s would be a great one. Country with a long (and storied - read bloody) history joins with historical enemy. They become frenemies for 300 years. But for those 300 years, Scotland feels like the junior partner. To be honest, though the 300 years are replete with examples of Scots doing great things around the world - shaping the whole world, quite literally; the majority of Scots feel like they are just put upon by the English. Western society “progresses” and Scots begin to think that they would be better off taking over their own affairs. So they agitate a bit (something Scots are particularly good at) and get more political power devolved down to their newly re-established parliament. Once they get some power, they want more. Eventually, they think that they should have complete self-determination and breakup with their frenemy. In the end it all boils down to “If we can do it ourselves it will all be better.”

There is a wonderful, childlike, and actually quite un-Scottish naive optimism behind the “Yes” movement. No matter what perceived roadblocks there might be, the attitude remains that it will be better if we have the right to control all our own affairs. Not sure what the currency will be? No problem. We’ll work out something. Want to join a military alliance that might be put out that you just kicked that alliances’ submarines out of your reformed country? No worries! We can come to some arrangement. Want to join the big free-trade zone that you’ve enjoyed commerce with for over 50 years even if they might not want you? No problem, we’ll smooth that out.

To be quite honest, your Maximum Leader believes that if Scotland votes for independence (and he still hopes they don’t) they probably will sort out most of these issues. It will not be without a whole lot of toil, tears, and sweat (probably not much bloodshed - thankfully - but this is Scotland and there may be some fist fighting and bloody noses). Scotland might go through a long(-ish) period of economic depression and might find itself in a bad way in lots of areas. But in the end, they will pull through. The more your Maximum Leader thinks on it, the more he thinks that in the very long term and independent Scotland would wind up somewhere between Ireland and Greece in the scheme of the EU. Now being Ireland or Greece isn’t much to speak of now, over the long haul it isn’t so bad.

Then one can think of the repercussions of Scottish independence and how they might pan out… English side-effects would likely be that Tory governments will be elected more often in England and England will further limiting it’s role in the EU. Scotland might need to attract highly-educated workers to stimulate the economy. They might institute some sort of “right of return” and enable your Maximum Leader to get a Scottish passport and claim Scottish citizenship. (Which might be appealing come retirement time…) If Scotland gets into the EU; then Catalonia, the Veneto and the Basque areas could all become independent states. It is mind-boggling to think about….

Of course, the mind-boggling requires pretty rosy glasses and more than a nip or two of the ole uisge beatha.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

100 Below - Lead Fruit

I remember my grandfather and I planting the tree. He looked over the farm towards the Shenandoah and said, “This land was fought over by Federals and Rebels. One day this tree will bear lead fruit.”

It was crazy, of course. But when I looked at the tree I thought “lead fruit.”

65 years later a nor’easter blew threw. Knocked down that tree. I went and looked at it before they came to cut it and take it away. There tangled in the mass of roots and dirt were bullets from the Civil War.

“I’ll be damned. Lead fruit.”

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