I Was Wrong. Terribly, Terribly Wrong.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader should have his amateur pundit status revoked. He got the results of the late Presidential election very, very, (and he can’t emphasize this enough - VERY) wrong. It is little consolation that most everyone else got it wrong too. Even the esteemed Larry Sabato and his “Crystal Ball” - which is your Maximum Leader’s favorite site for political punditry - got it waaaaaaay wrong.

Your Maximum Leader will try to digest what has happened and comment on it when he has some cogent thoughts on the matter. But here are a few items he’d like to put out there:

1 ) Not every person who voted for Donald Trump is a racist, woman-hating, sex-addicted, Islamophobe, degenerate. There are a lot of decent people out there who voted for Trump because they couldn’t abide by Hillary Clinton. Your Maximum Leader has been on the record stating that he’ll never vote for another Clinton, Bush, Kennedy, Roosevelt, or even Adams. Your Maximum Leader knows a great many people who voted for Trump because they wouldn’t vote for Clinton and “a vote for a 3rd party was a vote for Clinton.” (By the way, your Maximum Leader was told, often, that the reverse was also true, “a vote for a 3rd party was a vote for Trump.)

2 ) A vote for a candidate other than Clinton or Trump was, in fact, a vote for someone other than Clinton or Trump. Your Maximum Leader is a little embarrassed by his vote for Gary Johnson. Not because it was one vote less for a major party candidate. He’s a little embarrassed by his vote because, as he’s stated before, Johnson was a weak candidate who didn’t have mastery of foreign policy issues. Your Maximum Leader, if he had it to do all over again, would likely cast the same vote.

3 ) As hard as it may be for some, it would behoove everyone to try and give Donald Trump, President-elect Donald Trump, a chance to be a better President than he was a candidate.

4 ) Your Maximum Leader must tip his bejeweled mylan cap to Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon. From what your Maximum Leader can gather, they are the masterminds behind Trumps strategy to hit “safe blue” state rural areas. They seem, at this point, to have had the vision to project a path to victory and convinced Trump to take it. Trump must also be credited for being a tireless campaigner and doing all he could to get out to actually talk to the voters he needed. It is a tremendous accomplishment.

5 ) Your Maximum Leader can’t state it enough… Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate. Certainly your Maximum Leader thought that the one Republican she could knock off was Donald Trump. But he was wrong. She couldn’t even do that. Your Maximum Leader would admonish Democrats stop blaming their shortcomings on voters and seriously examine their candidate and her campaign.

6 ) Though he doesn’t normally read post-election books on how campaigns were run, he may make an exception for this election year.

7 ) It is at a time like this that your Maximum Leader wishes that there was more civility among the political classes in Washington. The worm turns. The wheel of karma rolls on. The shoe always comes to be on the other foot. It is precisely at the change of administrations when one party or the other comes to regret the things they have previously said. Specifically your Maximum Leader is thinking about President Obama’s “you lost” and “elections have consequences” comments to Congressional Republicans shortly after taking office. Your Maximum Leader can imagine President Trump using much saltier language to the same affect against Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in January 2017.

8 ) Your Maximum Leader hopes, but doesn’t really expect, that Mike Pence (Vice-President-elect Mike Pence), Speaker Ryan, and Senator McConnell, will be able to influence President-elect Trump with an agenda that can get done and can repair some of the damage done all around, by both candidates, in this campaign.

9 ) Get over attacks on James Comey. While your Maximum Leader would not have made the same decisions he did about releasing information about ongoing investigations, Comey did what he thought best and has been as bipartisan as it is possible for an FBI Director to be. It may also be that Comey’s letters may have had less impact than we all have thought. (Please see #5 above.)

10 ) Pollsters and pundits really need to figure out what the hell they are doing and do better. The Brexit vote should have been a red flag telling pollsters that people lie to pollsters - especially if by being honest they think that they will be branded as racists, bigots, and degenerates. Apparently only the USC/LA Times polling picked Trump. Your Maximum Leader seems to recall reading somewhere along the line how the USC/LAT polls were “complex” and “poorly weighted.” So he dismissed them. He thinks now that the method used to collect this poll data will be replicated by others. Particularly the identification of people to participate in long-term polling and seeing the evolution of opinion. Also, by talking to the same people month after month, a level of trust - and a level of honesty with the pollster - is established. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t know how this would work out, but it deserves being looked at.

That is all for now…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter and Gab.ai. His handle: @maximumleader

A Last Thought

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will grace you all with his last thoughts on the impending election. He’ll even do this in the first person, for your reading pleasure.

I’ve not commented on the 2016 election as some might have expected. Afterall, I am an amateur student of politics and have, since I was very young, had a keen interest in it. But this year’s election went off the rails early and I’ve never been so disgusted in all my life by the state of political discourse in our Republic.

Perhaps I am growing older, more cynical, more bitter, more everything. I still find myself watching, reading and listening to commentary, news and the thoughts of others when it has come to the 2016 election. And the whole thing continues to disgust me. Not only is it disgusting, I actually have fears for the future of our Republic.

These fears may just be a general feeling of dread that come from hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and month after month of election coverage that doesn’t really change, it just continues down the tawdry path it started on. Maybe it is more than just general dread.

Well, let me begin at the end…

As I tweeted back in June that Hillary Clinton will become the next President of the United States. I stand by that. She will win tomorrow and will have achieved her ambitious goal. She will succeed to the office held once by her husband and be the first woman to hold the office. That being said… Hillary Clinton is an ambitious, corrupt, self-serving, paranoid, small-thinking person who under any normal circumstances would never get the nomination of the Democratic Party much less be elected President. As I’ve said to many people in person, Hillary Clinton has most of Richard Nixon’s negative traits with none of his positive traits.

I have to agree with many people who say that Hillary has an impressive resume. She does. But what really has she done in any of her positions? Nothing. From the moment Bill Clinton left office it has been painfully clear that any position Hillary Clinton aspired to was only a stepping stone to becoming President. She’s not been building a resume of qualifications. She has been ticking boxes on a checklist as she looks up to the ultimate goal.

Now, in order to be President you have to have ambition. I know that. Everyone with any sense knows it. But there is ambition and there is what Hillary has been doing. John McCain, after years in the Senate, got to thinking - as every Senator does at one point in their political career - that he would make a great President. He didn’t go to the Senate to become President. It was an eventual aspiration. Often people who are so unabashedly envious of the highest office in the land don’t actually ever get the chance to run. Because that ambition seems tawdry and unseemly. I think of Bill Nelson of Florida. He is currently the senior Senator from Florida. He was overly ambitious. The proverbial man in a hurry. His colleagues (and detractors) in Florida recognized his ambition for what it was and started jokingly calling him “Mr. President.” His ambition was the end of him. Sure, being a US Senator from a large state is a good gig, but it wasn’t where he wanted to be. People saw his ambition and were concerned. This concern goes back to the beginning of the Republic. If someone wanted to be President so badly, it was a disqualification of sorts. They had their own interests in front of those of the nation. If anyone other than Hillary Clinton had so shamelessly sought the office - from the beginning - I firmly believe that they would never have gotten far along in the primaries because people would have been suspicious of their motives and avoided her. But lucky for Hillary Clinton, she has always benefited from common perceptions not seeming to apply to her. She’s always wanted to be President and many people have just been fine with that. Frankly, this probably upsets me more than others.

Hillary Clinton’s ambition is, I believe, largely at fault for her many shortcomings. Her email scandals, her penchant for secrecy, her contempt for the press are all manifestations of her ambition. She has seen so many ways in which the path to her goal could be derailed, that she has made every effort to avoid the situations that could be problematic. But those avoidance tactics have just complicated her path and made her the phenomenally weak candidate that she is.

In fact, Hillary Clinton is such a weak candidate she would have been crushed in a general election by any person the Republican Party put forward.

Except one.

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a narcissistic, megalomaniacal, carnival barker. He has no real understanding of how government works. He has blatant disregard for the institutions of government and of civil society. He is, as well I believe, an awful person.

It is hard to fully explain how bad a candidate Donald Trump is. I would try to point out bad policies. But it is hard to tell what his true beliefs are. I don’t honestly know that we know what Trump actually believes on anything. He says what he says without thought, reflection, or deeply held philosophy. Donald Trump is out for Donald Trump.

I’ve been told by Republican friends that Trump is better than Hillary. I don’t know how I could arrive at that position. Is he pro-life? Is he pro-choice? He’s been both. He seems to be against “globalism” and most every trade deal out there. I am for free-trade and think that globalism is generally a good thing. Trade deals don’t give everyone everything they want, because they are negotiated deals. One would think that Trump would understand how to make a deal. He has made business deals. But Trump can find a way out of a business deal by hiring a slew of lawyers and beating down his opponents. You don’t do that with a trade deal, or a military alliance, or a treaty obligation. Trump is against illegal immigration. I am too. But I am in favor of a radical overhaul of how we let people in from Central & South America. (For what it is worth, I am in favor of granting large numbers of temporary work visas for migrant workers. Many industries in the US would grind to a halt without immigrants - currently many illegal immigrants. I would prefer we establish a system to track coming and going and grant some legal status to the immigrant laborers who do much to build our nation.) Maybe Donald Trump is for comprehensive immigration reform. We don’t know. All we know is that he wants to build a wall. A big, beautiful, fucking wall. That is the extent of his discourse on immigration.

Donald Trump seems to be a rather vile person overall and I don’t want a vile person becoming President. I know he’s been accused of racism over the campaign. I don’t think that there is a lot of evidence of racism in his career prior to running for President, but he has been happy to play up the racist (at worst), or at least troubling (at best), prejudices of many Americans. That being said, Donald Trump hasn’t done anything to make anyone who isn’t white feel comfortable about how they would be regarded in “Trump’s America.”

I could go on and on about the negative qualities of both candidates. But I’ll stop here. It doesn’t matter. I don’t believe in the “undecided voter.” At least not this year. The only indecision in this year’s election was the type I had. Do you vote or not? That is being “undecided.”

I have voted in every election since I was eligible to vote. I live in Virginia and we have elections every year. Yes. Every. Single. Year. I’ve not missed one. President, Senate, Congress, Governor, County Board, Sheriff, Commissioner of Revenue, even Clerk of the Circuit Court. I’ve voted in all of them. I’ve voted for men, women, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. I’m a voter. Most of the time I’ve voted Republican. I’ve considered myself a “Conservative Republican” since the Reagan years. Sure I’ve pulled the trigger for some Democrats. (I voted for Chuck Robb for Senate in 1994 - when he ran against Oliver North. I also voted for Dave Crute as Mayor of Farmville, VA. I have also voted for other local office holders who are/were Democrats.) In Presidential Elections I’ve voted for Republicans. In primaries I’ve supported Republicans - and not always the winners. (I’ll admit that I flirted with Steve Forbes in ‘96, and before that Pat Buchanan against George H.W. Bush. Because I wanted Bush to be “more conservative.” In retrospect, I regret that. I should have had more appreciation in the moment for the elder Bush… Hell, this year I supported John Kasich. Frankly, I still support him and hope that he chooses to run in 2020.) But 2016 is the year I’m not voting for the “Republican” for President.

Donald Trump is no more a Republican than Vladimir Putin is a peacenik. Trump is Trump. All is about and for Trump. And just as assuredly as Donald Trump is not a Republican he is not conservative.

I’ve known my whole life that not all conservatives are Republicans and not all Republicans are conservatives. But since the 1980s it has been safe to say that Republicans were closer to my brand of conservatism than were Democrats. Today I don’t know what the party is for a conservative. Frankly, I’m not sure what will be left of the traditional party system in four years. Because either way you cut it, the parties are going to burn.

Yes. Both of them. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are disastrous for the parties for which they are standard bearers. It will happen first and harder for the Republicans. Over the decades I’ve heard, and been told more than once, that the Republican party is doomed and will split. But this is the first year I seriously think it could happen. It has been happening over the past four years. It happens when your party doesn’t have a firm set of beliefs and policy goals. The only thing unifying the Republican party has been opposition to Barack Obama. In many ways that is enough to get by, until the election comes around. Donald Trump has successfully driven out many conservatives. He has done all he can possibly do to alienate minorities from coming to the Republican party. And he’s doing all he can to burn down the party apparatus by making the election all about him - no matter what he says or does.

Now many of my Republican friends point out that the party “elites” have grown away from the “base.” In many respects that is true. But I prefer to think that no one in the Republican party has tried to provide leadership and vision to the base to move them forward. Many Republicans are no better than or different from Democrats when it comes to keeping their jobs and doing very little. That is a serious problem. But the solution to the problem is not Donald Trump. He only makes the problems worse. I know many people who have said for years “if only the Republicans would put up a “real conservative” - then we could really show the Democrats and change America.” These people didn’t like John McCain or Mitt Romney. Those nominees “weren’t conservative enough.” Well… Here’s the thing. There aren’t enough conservatives in America to win the Presidency on the basis of only winning conservative votes. You have to appeal to conservatives, moderates, some liberals, and to idiots in order to get elected. Having said all that, Donald Trump isn’t a conservative. He is a populist carnie who is appealing to the most base feelings of a significant portion of the population. He is not the leader of a broad-based movement that will save America. He is a flame that has already damaged political discourse and political institutions. No good can come from him.

I don’t know what the future will bring for the Republican party. But there is some serious soul-searching and work to be done. If they want to be a serious party for the future they will have to purge some of the voices that echo the worst of Trump. They will have to come up with an ideology and a standard bearer for that ideology. If not, they will become a marginal group that will shrink to irrelevance. It is possible that some conservatives will bolt and form another party. One that is more conservative. I don’t know. But change is coming.

Of course, the Democrats are not out of the woods themselves. Hillary Clinton will be a disaster for them and for the nation. All the problems that have beset her as a candidate will magnify themselves 100 fold as President. Her penchant for secrecy will be viewed as Nixonian - and as much as they press may not like to do it I believe that they will ultimately have to report on the misdeeds that will surely come. Hillary Clinton’s first reaction to criticism is attack the source, circle the wagons, and protect herself. The press will go along for a time, but they eventually come around to defending themselves. Hillary Clinton will continue to use the Democratic party as an extension of her ambition and the disillusionment that is currently being felt by Bernie Sanders supporters who think that she used dirty tricks to cheat their guy out of the nomination will grow. I suspect that we’ll see that Hillary Clinton has, or will, use the party apparatus in some way that she shouldn’t and it will cause lasting damage to the party.

And when both parties are damaged, and when both candidates are so terribly flawed it can only hurt the Republic. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton care a wit about the nation. They are in it for themselves. As such, they can’t be transformational leaders, or even leaders. They only know blunt force. When the only tool you have in your kit is blunt force, you meet nothing but resistance. If you think that Hillary Clinton can “bring America together” then you need to share whatever you’re smoking with Gary Johnson. She can’t. She’ll never bring along anyone who isn’t already supporting her. You can’t govern a diverse nation without reaching out. And she’s incapable of doing that.

So gird your loins for four years of partisanship, bitterness, invective, investigation, and accusation that will make the last eight years of Barack Obama seem like the Era of Good Feelings.

So if you are wondering, after this rambling wreck of a blog post, “who will Mike be voting for?” Well let me tell you. This is the year where I’ve realized that the franchise is only an affirmative franchise. We vote “for” someone. A vote “for” someone is a positive affirmation of that candidate. There isn’t a vote that relates that the recipient of that vote is the “lesser of possible evils.” And we don’t have a “no” or “none of the above” category. Up until 2016 I’ve been able to vote “for” everyone I’ve ever marked a ballot for. I may not have agreed with them on everything. I know that I’ve held my nose voting for some. But I’ve always been able to assure myself that the person receiving my vote was qualified to hold the office and wouldn’t engage in malfeasance in office. I can’t say that about either major party candidate this year. I thought for a long time I’d vote for Gary Johnson. But the more I’ve learned, the less impressed I’ve been. Johnson doesn’t seem up to the job. I suspect that I’ll go into the voting booth tomorrow and leave blank the spot where I vote for President. (I’ll cast a vote for Rob Whitman - my Congressman. And I’ll vote against the Constitutional measures on the ballot.) I’ll not endorse anyone for President - because not one of them are worth my imprimatur. They are all an awful lot and not worthy of the office for which they run.

There is some small nagging voice within me that says I should vote for someone. I may get into the voting booth and realize that I just HAVE TO vote for someone to be President. I don’t know. I may yet vote for Gary Johnson - if only to boost the future prospects of the Libertarian Party. I might vote for Evan McMullin - who doesn’t seem to be ill-informed, ill-mannered, or incompetent. One thing is certain, I’ll not vote for Clinton or Trump.

All this being written… I could be wrong. I doubt it. But I could be. I also encourage you to vote. (If you haven’t already. And aren’t dead.)

As I say as your Maximum Leader,

Carry on.

UPDATED: Ballot completed. Was voter 268 in my precinct. Felt compelled to cast vote for President. It was Johnson. Don’t feel good about that. But it is finished.

A Revised Electoral College Prediction

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader posted his Electoral College map back in July. If you have visited this site since July, you’ve surely wondered, “Is my Maximum Leader still confident of his Electoral College predictions?” Well, your Maximum Leader has made some adjustments. The outcome is the same, but here is his revised Electoral Map:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Congratulations, President-Elect Clinton and Vice-President-Elect Tim Kaine.

Carry on.

I’ve Seen Your Political Compass and I’ll Raise You Mine.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader’s buddy Kevin re-took the Political Compass test. He posted his results here.

Your Maximum Leader re-took the Political Compass Test. Here are his results:
PolitComp101416

Your Maximum Leader can’t immediately find the links to his previous results, but he thinks he’s grown more Libertarian and suspicious of authority.

UPDATED BY YOUR MAXIMUM LEADER: Something compelled your Maximum Leader to retake the test, but change some of his answers from “agree” or “disagree” to “strongly agree” or “strongly disagree.” (For example the first time he took the test he “agreed” that what happens in the bedroom should be private, but changed it to “strongly agree” in the second test.) The change of a few answers gave him this result:
politcomp2101416

A little more right-wing, but about the same on Libertarianism… Interesting.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Twitter and on Gab.ai: @maximumleader

King Bhumibol, RIP

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader stirs from his slumber to note the passing of King Bhumibol of Thailand. As reported in the AP, the King was the world’s longest reigning monarch. Beyond his longevity, he was the unifying figure in Thai society. Even here in the United States that is evident. To wit: your Maximum Leader can’t recall a Thai restaurant, or the home of Thai immigrants, that he’s been in and has not found at least a small photo of King Bhumibol.

It will be interesting, and concerning, to watch the situation in Thailand over the next few months. The military junta running the country will undoubtedly feel pressure to allow some sort of democracy to re-start in the nation. Your Maximum Leader has read, and John Oliver popularly noted, that the Crown Prince is not a particularly beloved (or competent) figure. One hopes that the transition from one monarch to another is peaceful. But in the world we live in, we’ll have to keep an eye on this unfolding situation.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Twitter or on Gab.ai at: @maximumleader.

It (Sort of) Lives!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is not dead or departed from this place. He’s just lazy and busy with real life.

Some things to put out there for you…

Your Maximum Leader has been working on an essay for this space. It started as an examination of the 2nd Amendment, but is now just a mediocre political screed. He does want to finish and publish it. If only for a feeling of accomplishment. Perhaps he’ll work on it this weekend when it will be unfit for man or beast to venture outside the air conditioning…

The Republican National Convention is over. For the first time since 1980 your Maximum Leader hasn’t watched a significant portion of a political convention. He normally watches most of prime time for both major parties. This year he’s watched nothing. He doesn’t plan on watching any of the Democrats party either. Both major party candidates are completely unpalatable to your Maximum Leader. He will be voting for Gary Johnson the Libertarian candidate. If he doesn’t vote for Johnson, he’ll be voting for Cthulhu.

Speaking of politics… Let your Maximum Leader be among the first to congratulate Hillary Clinton on being elected President of the United States. Here is your Maximum Leader’s electoral map preditiction:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Your Maximum Leader might move Indiana over to Trump with its 11 Electoral votes. But he isn’t ready to move that state over yet.

And moving away from politics…

Your Maximum Leader’s best buddy Kevin surprised him with some Bundaberg Ginger Beer. It was an unexpected and wonderful gift. When a large box arrived at the Villainschloss, your Maximum Leader’s offspring were anxious to open it and discover what lay within. When they did open the box there were less enthusiastic than was your Maximum Leader. Which is a little strange because all of your Maximum Leader’s offspring really like ginger beer. Now, the standard ginger beer of the Villainschloss is Goslings. Your Maximum Leader is quite fond of Dark & Stormys and he tends to keep a supply of both Goslings rum and ginger beer on hand to make them. Your Maximum Leader has also had “Q” Brand ginger beer as well as Saranac ginger beer. While both Q and Saranac have characteristics to commend them, your Maximum Leader doesn’t care for them as much as Goslings. This weekend will be the moment of truth. Your Maximum Leader will taste test Bundaberg ginger beer and Goslings ginger beer. Kevin did his own taste test between ginger ale and ginger beer here. Your Maximum Leader will publish the results here and let you know his thoughts on this.

That is all for now…

Carry on.

UPDATE: There is one little update about the Electoral College map posted above. Your Maximum Leader could see where Iowa & Indiana go for Trump. Which would make the totals: Clinton - 336, Trump - 202. (Nebraska would give a vote to Clinton as they divvy them out proportionally. Maine does too, but your Maximum Leader thinks Maine goes all to Clinton.) As 270 is the magic number, Hillary Clinton still wins.

Opening Day 2016

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is excited that today is the first (full) day of baseball season for 2016. Sure there were games yesterday, but he feels like today is really the day. This is in part because his beloved Washington Nationals will start the season in Atlanta taking on the Division rival Braves.

Your Maximum Leader hasn’t done as much season previewing as he normally does. That is in large part due to his beloved hockey team, the Washington Capitals, being on the brink of the playoffs. He’s been focused on the Capitals since October and will stay primarily locked in on the Caps until their season is done. But now baseball will start creeping into the rotation of sports in his mind… So, about previews or predictions for the Nationals this season… Well… The New York Mets are the hot NL team this year. Being in the same division as the Mets, the Nationals are well positioned to either do well and surprise people, or just submit to the “inevitability” of the Metropolitans. It looks like Miami (who has for some mad reason always played well against the Nationals - even when they were the doormat of the rest of the league) might be a little stronger than expected. The Nationals are not, in my estimation at least, in the top tier of NL clubs. Those top tier clubs are: Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers, Mets and possibly the Pirates too. Your Maximum Leader places the Nationals just out of that group. Of course, the season is a long one and we are just beginning it.

Your Maximum Leader predicts that the Nationals will win about 85-90 games this season. He isn’t sure that will be enough to get into the playoffs. Of course, he hopes for better than that, but from what he sees right now, that prediction makes sense.

By the way… Your Maximum Leader will attend his first game of the season on April 23rd… He hopes to get about 10 games in this year…

The Nat’s curly “W”

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Tweety: @maximumleader

The President and Going Places.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wants to take a moment to get something off his chest. This is something that people who know your Maximum Leader in real life (and talk to him from time to time) already know… Depending on the political affiliation of the President of the United States at the time, this position drives completely different groups of friends absolutely nuts. Here it goes:

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t begrudge the President of the United States a round of golf, a vacation, or even deciding not to attend a funeral at any time.

This comes up because many people with whom your Maximum Leader shares a political outlook are quite irate that President Obama is not going to attend the funeral of Justice Antonin Scalia. In fact, this piece pretty much captures the sentiment your Maximum Leader is talking about. Here is are some excerpts from the piece:

Unable to resist the urge to give one last snub to the Supreme Court justice who opposed him at every turn, President Obama will not attend the funeral of Antonin Scalia on Saturday. […] Obama will “pay his respects” to Scalia by viewing the remains at the Supreme Court on Friday. […] In none of those other cases was there such a personal animus on the part of the president toward a justice. Scalia’s scathing dissents on Obamacare cases no doubt angered the president. And just recently, Scalia was part of the majority that struck down the president’s climate change plans. It’s no wonder that the president will find something else to do this weekend than go to Scalia’s funeral — probably play golf.

Now… Allow your Maximum Leader to say that your Maximum Leader would not be surprised to discover irrefutably that President Obama is thin-skinned, and behaving like a petulant child and that is motivation to not attend the Scalia funeral. It is completely possible (even probable). Your Maximum Leader doesn’t know the mind of the President on this matter.

But, your Maximum Leader, in this case, and in most other cases you can think of, will always give the President (regardless of party affiliation) the benefit of the doubt when it comes to what he will do with his time and what events he will attend.

Please consider this for a moment, when the President of the United States goes somewhere it is a big deal. There are advance people, there is security, there is more security, there are reporters, there are hangers-on, there are staff. It is a circus. Yes, this is true to a lesser extent for the Vice-President as well. But it is the real deal for the President. If the President and Vice-President attend the same function it isn’t just that they do the security for one and the other just tags along. Oh no. It is double the trouble. That is just a fact of life when dealing with the President.

Now, if your Maximum Leader were a member of the Scalia family, he wouldn’t want the President to come to the funeral. All of the people and additional security that would be added to that which already has to be provided given the fame and position of the deceased and many of the other distinguished (and undistinguished) guests would be a huge additional burden on a day that is already burdensome. If the President was a friend of Justice Scalia, or an ideological fellow-traveler, or simply asked to come, then okay that is the way it will be. But if the choice was up to your Maximum Leader and the President wanted to stay away, that would be just fine. Frankly if the Vice-President wanted to stay away that would be fine too. Your Maximum Leader thinks that the President “paying his respects” at the Supreme Court building viewing is just fine.

What your Maximum Leader is saying is that having the President of the United States come to your [insert family event] is a logistical headache that complicates everything for everybody. In this respect your Maximum Leader doesn’t care if the President chooses to “stay in the bubble.”

Of course, the President, from time to time, needs to get out of “the bubble” and go somewhere that isn’t the White House, or Camp David. So the President might go out golfing. Or take a vacation. Those trips are disruptive as well. When the President goes on vacation somewhere there are communications issues, security, and screening that must take place. Your Maximum Leader seems to recall that someplace where Bill Clinton went on vacation got over $100,000 of communications infrastructure added to it so that Clinton would be in touch with all the entities that a President must be in touch with. And that is sort of the point too… The President, wherever he goes is still the President and has to be the President. The world doesn’t stop when the President plays golf or goes to Martha’s Vineyard or Hawaii. There really isn’t a vacation on that job. It is just a change of scenery and fewer meetings.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader has a friend who is a member of a country club where President Obama played golf once. The friend got pissed off when Obama came because it was 1) a short notice visit - less than 24 hrs; 2) no club members could go to the club to play golf during the time the President was there - and existing tee times were cancelled; 3) there was a huge expense to replace the fairways after the President left because apparently the Secret Service drove some sort of vehicle out there to tail the President while he played - this expense may have been paid by some outside group and not the club but your Maximum Leader is unclear about that. Your Maximum Leader had no sympathy for the friend for any of this. In fact, he wondered if club membership might have gotten a boost because Obama supporters in the area might have chosen to join…)

So, don’t complain to your Maximum Leader that the President is playing golf, or going on vacation, or skipping a funeral. There are manifest problems with the President going anywhere and those are just part of the job for him and the price we pay as citizens for keeping him safe.

Now… Having said all that… Playing golf or taking vacations or skipping funerals can produce serious (or not-too-serious) political issues involving “optics.” It looks bad for the President to play golf a few days after Russia invades one of its neighbors. It looks bad for the President to go on vacation after terrorists bomb something. It looks bad that the President is skipping the funeral of a Supreme Court Justice that he didn’t like… Those are all different issues. They can be legitimate ones as well… But just don’t pull out the whole Obama has played golf 270 times since he became President as the whole argument. There has got to be more than just “going golfing” to get your Maximum Leader worked up…

(UPDATE: Here is a good piece in the Chicago Tribune saying that President Obama should go to Scalia’s funeral, because that is what the office demands. Your Maximum Leader likes the piece and the sentiment behind it, but stands by what he has already written.)

Finally though… If your Maximum Leader were President of the United States (which thankfully he is not and will never be), he would likely try to keep himself in “the bubble” whenever possible. He will add that he does take a more expansive view of who’s funeral the President of the United States should attend than does President Obama… The White House and Camp David are pretty nice places. He thinks he could suffer through them for 4 or 8 (or 10*) years. There would be plenty of time to golf and travel once he was retired.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Tweety: @maximumleader

*Thanks to the 22nd Amendment the longest period any person can serve as President is 10 years.

Yes Virginia, There is a Primary Election Coming.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is a lifetime Virginian. He loves his home state very much. Over the time he’s been alive, Virginia has been a reliably Republican state in Presidential elections. That has changed over the past two elections. Virginia has gone (in the words of the very wise Larry Sabato of UVA - and one of your Maximum Leader’s favorite political commentator types) from “red to purple.” Virginia still has a strong Republican streak, but has some heavily Democratic areas (namely “Northern Virginia” - the suburbs of Washington DC, Richmond, and “Hampton Roads” - the coastal area containing many cities that are both heavily minority and heavily military). Those Democratic areas have turned out in high numbers in the past two presidential elections and turned Virginia to Barack Obama. But they come out less for statewide elections and primaries… (Why that is would be another post for another day…)

Anyhoo…

After a lifetime of being ignored by politicians seeking the highest office in the land, your Maximum Leader’s state is now getting lots of political love from both parties. Our 13 Electoral Votes are, as the kids say, “in play.” Because we are now a “battleground” state, there is lots more politicking that your Maximum Leader is used to having…

Now allow your Maximum Leader to say that, as readers may guess, he is more politically tuned in than your “typical” American. He gets more involved in political matters and his views are generally known to local political types. The Democrats don’t generally go out of their way to talk to him about voting for them. But many Republicans do stop by the Villainschloss as times to vote come around.

Your Maximum Leader also gets calls… Lots and lots of calls… In fact, your Maximum Leader is pretty sure that he participated in the poll done by Christopher Newport University that is cited in this Washington Post piece. Here is the lede for the piece:

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump still have the lead in Virginia’s upcoming presidential primaries, according to a new poll from the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University — but both have lost ground in recent months to others in the race.

Clinton leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 52 percent to 40 percent with likely voters in the March 1 contest, according to the poll. Trump leads the crowded Republican field with 28 percent, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 22 percent and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 19 percent.

The piece goes on:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich appears to be the least divisive Republican in the field, but that’s because 39 percent of voters don’t know enough about him to form an opinion. He takes only 7 percent of Republican voters in the survey. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush fares worse, winning only 4 percent of voters, despite being far better known. Kasich aside, Rubio is the only candidate on the Republican side viewed more favorably than unfavorably.

On the Republican side, your Maximum Leader is a little surprised at the strong Trump showing. He is, however, comforted in seeing that non-Trump candidates appear to be in striking distance. That number may close in the next few weeks. According to what your Maximum Leader sees and hears, the Cruz number might be a little soft. There are lots of “Tea Party” people in your Maximum Leader’s area who seem to have moved from Trump to Cruz over the past few months. And Cruz supporters seem to have some sort of organization around. Of course, that reflects only a small segment of the state, but it is what your Maximum Leader knows…

For what it is worth, your Maximum Leader is supporting, and will vote on March 1st for Ohio Governor John Kasich. Your Maximum Leader has come over his lifetime to adhere more and more to the William F. Buckley, Jr. rule of “electability.” That is to say that conservatives should support the most viable conservative candidate that is electable. In your Maximum Leader’s mind, that is John Kasich. Is he as conservative as others in the race. No, probably not. But then again, to quote Monty Python’s memorable line about Henry Kissinger (who is still a fixture in the American debate after all these years), “at least he’s not insane.”

To your Maximum Leader, conservatives, Republicans, anyone really supporting Donald Trump is a bit “touched” as Southerners say. Cruz has impressive Tea Party credentials, but your Maximum Leader is not a Tea Party type of guy. The Tea Party is a little too fringe. Additionally, the Tea Party (mistakenly) believes that a majority of the American people are inclined to be conservative. They exclaim that “if only we would nominate for President a real, true, ideologically pure, conservative we’d win the election.” Your Maximum Leader disagrees. Americans are, he believes, conservatively inclined in some areas and liberally inclined in others. They are a mis-mash of political ideologies and many of the political beliefs held by a “typical” American are often self-contratictory and self-interested. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you think that an ideologically pure candidate appeals to a majority of voters - well you’re wrong.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader is pulling the lever for John Kasich and hopes many others do too.

In a twisted way, on the other side of the coin, your Maximum Leader hopes many people on the Democrat side pull the lever for Bernie Sanders. This isn’t because he cares for Bernie Sanders. In fact he believes that Bernie Sanders is more than a bit insane. (As are many Socialists who can overlook history to extoll the virtues of socialism in its various forms.) But one thing Bernie Sanders isn’t is inauthentic. Your Maximum Leader respects authenticity and honesty (to the extent that any politician can be honest). Sanders is crazy and his policies are generally ruinous to our nation. But he is not a vile (and perhaps criminal) opportunist like Hillary Clinton. Your Maximum Leader would like to see Bernie Sanders get the Democratic nomination, because he would be easier to beat in November. Of course, thanks to how “Superdelegates” work in the Democratic Party, there is almost no chance he’ll win the nomination - even if he wins a fair number of primaries and caucuses. Hillary has those Superdelegates locked up.

So you may be asking yourself, “Self, how will my Maximum Leader vote in November if John Kasich is not the Republican Candidate.” Well… Many readers may remember your Maximum Leader’s dear friend (and sometimes contributor in this space) the Smallholder. (NB: Smallholder would be the Ruth Bader Ginsburg to your Maximum Leader’s Antonin Scalia if you thought of this blog as the Supreme Court. Which you shouldn’t. Because that would be stupid.) Smallholder asked your Maximum Leader if he would vote for Clinton over Trump in the General Election if that was the choice. The answer was “no.” In fact, to be clear, your Maximum Leader pretty much said that he’d vote for Kasich or Rubio or a third-party candidate. Smallholder pressed him and asked if it all came down to one vote, would that change his mind? No, it doesn’t right now. Your Maximum Leader may yet widen his choices before November; but he doesn’t see a lot of possibility for that. Your Maximum Leader has some friends who are trying to convince him to go for Ted Cruz, if Cruz should come up with the nod. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t see Cruz getting the nod - or his vote… But who knows… Hell… Some sexy co-ed could try to ply your Maximum Leader with whisky and sexual favors to give his vote to Bernie Sanders… Stranger things have happened…

Anyhoo…

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out between now and November. With few exceptions, all the probably plays in the dance towards November look pretty friggin dismal. Your Maximum Leader continues to fear for the future of our great Republic… And there it is…

Carry on.

Hey! Follow your Maximum Leader on the Tweety-box: @maximumleader.

Some Thoughts on Our Republic on Washington’s Birthday

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is using the “snow event” in which he finds himself to do an update of his blog. Lucky you.

As you have no doubt read, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia has died. He was, as you can imagine, one of your Maximum Leader’s favorite justices. On many many occasions Justice Scalia’s opinions, or dissents, were aligned with your Maximum Leader’s views. He was a towering figure on the court for the past 29 years. In your Maximum Leader’s opinion he will be sorely missed.

Now the spectacle that will be the nomination of a new justice to the bench is upon us. Your Maximum Leader was a young man when Antonin Scalia was appointed to the Supreme Court. As many have memorialized over the past few days, he was approved 98-0 in 1986. Scalia’s nomination and confirmation was the last, and will be the last, Supreme Court nomination to take what your Maximum Leader likes to think of as the “traditional” path to appointing a Supreme Court Justice. That “traditional” path was that the President nominated a brilliant jurist or legal mind who (as much as could be determined) reflected the President’s views and the Senate made sure that the nominee had no serious impediment to him taking a seat on the high court and approved the nomination. (For what it is worth, your Maximum Leader knows that this was not always how the nomination process went, but it was more “normal” than not.)

That all changed with the nomination of Robert Bork in 1987. The Bork nomination saga was the end of the old way of doing Supreme Court nominations and the beginning of the new. Now we must examine everything about the nominee and if a Senator wants to oppose the nominee on political grounds then so be it.

Your Maximum Leader thinks that, by the by, the Republic has suffered because of this. We don’t (often) get the best legal minds going to the Supreme Court because their ideology will keep them from getting confirmed. We wind up with (broadly speaking) qualified but underwhelming nominees. (Sonya Sotomayor leaps immediately to mind. As does (though your Maximum Leader likes his decisions) Clarence Thomas.)

Your Maximum Leader loves the Constitution. And he loves our political process as well. He would like to go back to the time where the President could nominate their pick and that pick would get confirmed (assuming they were properly vetted). But your Maximum Leader knows that those days are gone. They have been gone for nearly 30 years. They are not coming back.

So we find ourselves in 2016 at an impasse over how to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court. Your Maximum Leader is sure that President Obama will make a nomination. And your Maximum Leader is sure that the President’s nomination will be treated exactly as nominations should be treated - as described in 2006 by Senator Obama from Illinois:

As we all know, there has been a lot of discussion in the country about how the Senate should approach this confirmation process. There are some who believe that the President, having won the election, should have complete authority to appoint his nominee and the Senate should only examine whether the Justice is intellectually capable and an all-around good guy; that once you get beyond intellect and personal character, there should be no further question as to whether the judge should be confirmed. I disagree with this view. I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent. I believe it calls for meaningful advice and consent and that includes an examination of a judge’s philosophy, ideology, and record.

It is your Maximum Leader’s belief that the Senate should accept the President’s nomination for hearings. And then they can schedule the hearings at their leisure. Your Maximum Leader is given to understand that the Senate will be in recess from July to November of this year. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t see how, with the Senate’s tremendous work load (you know - doing the business of budget passing and law-making) it will possibly be able to schedule hearings before the July recess. And then it would be unseemly for the then lame-duck Senate to hold confirmation hearings before the new President is inaugurated. So, your Maximum Leader doesn’t see how the open seat gets filled before February 2017…

Of course, this path is fraught with danger. The first danger lies, of course, in the delay itself. How long can you delay before the people (such as they are) decide too much is too much? Once the people decide too much is too much, the obstructionist party will have to deal with widespread anger. That anger can exact a price at the ballot box. Since the Republicans are the obstructionists in this equation (a reputation they do all they can to develop in every possible way in Washington - by the way) how long do they think they can go? Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure. He is inclined to say that they can make it through the inauguration of the next President. But if they choose this path, they will have to approve the nomination of the next President quickly - and regardless of whom the next President is.

The next possible danger is (for Republicans) is that the Democrats will win the general election in November and either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders will make a nomination. Your Maximum Leader can see either of them nominating none other than Barack Obama himself to sit on the high court. If not Obama, then certainly someone of impeccable liberal credentials, who might be more liberal than whomever President Obama chooses to nominate at this time.

Another possible danger in this process, but a danger for the President, is that he selects a nominee that is very liberal and easy to for Republican paint as an extremist. If Republicans could make the nominee the issue (and not delay on the nomination), then the President torpedoes his own choice. Your Maximum Leader thinks this is rather unlikely. What he thinks is most likely, in fact, is that President Obama nominates a left-of-center judge who is generally not contraversial and then sits back and wait for Republicans to delay. Then make it a huge campaign issue that could turn out people on both sides. If it comes down to turn-out, Republicans lose. They lose the general election and they lose on the nomination.

It will be interesting, and saddening, to watch how it all will unfold over the rest of the year. No matter how it turns out, it will be bad for the country. Our Republic is faltering. It is faltering because the legislature cannot agree to even minimal legislating. Our debts grow and grow without any plan for repayment or reduction down the path. Our place as the “leader of the free world” (or even a “world leader” in general) is flagging because we cannot craft a foreign policy that advances our interests. We are in a bad spot. The United States has been in that bad spot for about 10-11 years. Your Maximum Leader wonders if there will not be some trigger event soon that will push us over the cliff, or (more optimistically) cause us to rise up. Difficult to see is the future…

Anyhoo…

It is Washington’s Birthday. Or as the kids call it nowadays, “President’s Day.” It seems wrong that if it is President’s Day we should hold in equal esteem the likes of James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce and William Henry Harrison with those of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. Your Maximum Leader would prefer that we just go back to it being Washington’s Birthday. He would even tolerate Washington & Lincoln Day…

As he has done in years past… Here is your Maximum Leader’s list of the 10 Greatest Presidents of these United States (the list shows movement from the last time he updated the list):

1) George Washington. (No change) The first president, and the overriding shaper of the office. He set down many of the precedents that still function today. He established the cabinet system, and gave shape to the executive branch. He set down the major goals of US foreign policy (shunning entangling alliances) which held until (arguably) the Second World War. He also flexed (for the first time) federal supremacy over the states by putting down rebellions in Pennsylvania.

2) Abraham Lincoln. (No change) He saved the Union.

3) Franklin Roosevelt. (No change) Created the modern presidency (characterized by a strong executive). He also created the modern federal government (characterized by not only supreme federal authority but by an all-intrusive federal government).

4) James Knox Polk. (No change) Your Maximum Leader has always believed in the greatness of James K. Polk (”Young Hickory” as he was known). Polk promised four things would be accomplished during his presidency. 1 - the Indian question in the south would be resolved; 2 - Texas would enter the Union; 3 - California would become part of the US; 4- a northern border with Canada west of the great lakes would be fixed. (He also promised to resolve unsettled tariff policy issues.) Polk said if these four things were not done in his four years, he would not seek another term. During his term he: sent the army in to round up and move the Indians in the south, he faught a war with Mexico and acquired Texas, California, and other western lands. He was (thanks to British/Canadian intransigence) unable to negotiate a northern border with Canada. He refused to run for a second term, and retired. (Your Maximum Leader will also add that he died shortly after leaving office - which your Maximum Leader also thinks is a generally good thing for ex-presidents to do.)

5) Theodore Roosevelt. (Number 6 last year) He started moving the nation towards global superpower status. Started necessary progressive changes and sensible regulation of the American economy that improved and expanded the middle-class.

6) Ronald Reagan. (Number 5 last year) He redefined the role of the modern federal government. (If you don’t think so, look at the administration of Bill Clinton and guess again.) And he won the Cold War. He was dropped by one position from last year due to his over-delegation of leadership in his second term - and the trouble it got him into.

7) Harry Truman. (No change) Had a tough act to follow, but did very well at it. Used the Bomb to end the war. Nationalized the Coal industry to break an illegal strike. Suddenly woke up and smelled the coffee concerning Soviet aggression and started defending US interests against communists.

8 ) Andrew Jackson. (No change) Andrew Jackson deserved credit (or blame - pick ‘em) for the populist streak in American politics. He was the first “outsider” elected President and has a record to prove it. Expanding the franchise (by eliminating the property requirement to voting). Drastically expanding the use of the veto to expand Presidential power. Killing the Bank of the United States (and with it some financial stability in our young nation). His was a very important and consequential Presidency. He doesn’t have many fans nowadays (and perhaps doesn’t deserve many) but his left a great mark on the nation.

9) Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Not listed) A remarkable administrator and manager of world affairs. He oversaw tremendous peacetime prosperity and growth. He preserved American power and prestige and promoted American values around the world while European nations shed their empires. He managed the Cold War and prevented it from getting hot. He is an underrated President worthy of more attention.

10) John Adams & Lyndon B Johnson. (A tie, your Maximum Leader’s first) Although Adams’ presidency is not noteworthy for many reasons; Adams needs to be given credit for stepping aside peacefully when he lost the Election of 1800. Peaceful transition from one office-holder to another is a little-valued tendency in the US, Britain, Canada, Austrailia and Western Democracies. As for LBJ… It is hard to overlook the most consequential application of federal authority over life in America since FDR. Civil Rights. Medicaid. Medicare. The modern welfare state really is the accomplishment of LBJ. That merits a place on the list…

There you have it…

Feel free to tell your Maximum Leader how he’s wrong if you like… Or shower him with your praise of his brilliance… Either will be appreciated.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Tweety-box.

Pondering in her heart. (Redux)

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?

Nothing…

Not a damned thing. Our politics are boorish and crass. Our culture is excessive, unrestrained, and frequently vile. And having said that about the United States, your Maximum Leader recognizes that we have it better than any other country out there.

This time last year, your Maximum Leader tweeted (follow him on the Tweety-box @maximumleader) the following pithy line:

Well… Here is a little more on that thought…

At the time, 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.

A Theological Flight of Fancy.

Miriam, the daughter of Timon and Ruth, was the fifth of eight children who lived. She, unlike her brothers and sisters, seemed to always be right. “Right” in many senses of the word. Unlike other children, she never became ill. Never a fever. Never an ache. Never a pain. Her health was “right.” Like her health, her temperament was “right.” She was slow to anger. Quick to forgive. She was never inflamed by passions of any sort. She was “right” in her thinking. She always seemed to do the right thing. Not just the proper thing. She saw choices before her and took choices that were thoughtful, contemplative, just and appropriate in all cases.

Miriam was also radiant. Her physical beauty was a marvel to all. All the women of Alexandria were secretly, or sometimes openly, jealous of her. Egyptians saw her flawless complexion and wondered how so fair a Jew could survive the sun. She was as luminescent as a mortal could be.

In all these and so many other ways she was unlike her parents. Her mother was a paunchy woman who tended house and nagged her sons and husband. Timon, her father, was a prosperous spice merchant and upstanding member of the community of Jews in the great Egyptian city. He was, also a quarreler. He was a man of strong opinions and a loud voice with which to make you aware of his opinions. Miriam’s siblings took after her mother or father. But she was unlike all of them. She glided through life. Her serenity touched everyone in her presence and made them, for a time, a better version of themselves.

One day, her father was loudly complaining about taxes imposed on his business by local agents of Caesar Augustus. Taxes he had to pay above and beyond the bribes he already paid to make business go smoothly. Miriam entered the room and saw her father’s agitated state. She said she would get him some cool water to calm him. She left and went to the garden well.

As she stood in the garden at the well she saw a man clothed in brilliant white robes. She wondered, for an instant, how this man came to be in the garden within the house. He looked at her with eyes that burned in righteousness and power. She was struck with fear at his sight.
“Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you Miriam.” Upon hearing his voice Miriam realized it was no man at all. This was an angel of God.

“Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with you,” the angel spoke again. “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever and of his Kingdom there will be no end.”

But Miriam said to the angel “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”

The angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Miriam sat quietly and pondered these things the angel had said in her heart.

Then Miriam said to the angel, “May it be done according to your word, but to another. I am filled with fear and unworthiness of this calling. May this cup pass from me.”

The angel said, “This has happened before, and it shall happen again. One will freely choose.”

Miriam started to cry. She choked out, “Have I done wrong? Have I displeased the Lord.”

The angel smiled and said, “No child. You have answered according to your heart and will. The Lord created you thus. Go in peace.”

Miriam turned and carried the water to her father.

St Andrew and Winston

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader thought he might have some time to write about topical issues. Like the Planned Parenthood shooting. Or the Paris Bombings. Or the situation in Syria (and its attendant refugee crisis). But no. He is a lazy turd who wasted prime writing time yesterday by watching football, and reading. (Loser.)

But, he decided to log in this morning to have an update in November 2015. Your Maximum Leader will point out to you all that today is both St. Andrew’s Day and the anniversary of the birth of Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (b. 1874).

St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and that northern land has been much in the news of late. The recent failure of the Independence Vote… The complete resurgence of the Scottish National Party in the British general election (in which the SNP pretty much destroyed Labour in Scotland). If you have been following news in/about Scotland you would also know that the British Parliament (in Westminster) is working on a “Scotland Bill.” This bill would devolve more power down to the Scottish Parliament (in Edinburgh). As your Maximum Leader reads about the bill (but not the bill itself - because he’s lazy) it seems as though the Tories are working as hard as they can to make Scotland as happy as they can be within the Union. But the more you read and think about what the SNP is doing you realize that independence is the only thing that will really satisfy them. It will come sooner or later, but your Maximum Leader fears that it will come. That disappoints him because Scotland is (in his opinion) better off in the Union. He doesn’t think that an independent Scotland will get into the EU immediately. He also isn’t sure what they will use for currency… But those are just minor problems to those who want out… One might hope that Scots might reflect more carefully on their future (who knows… perhaps a little prayer to St. Andrew even) and be skeptical of leaving the Union.

Then you get the other bit historical event… The 141st anniversary of the birth of Winston Churchill. The Wee Villain (aged 11 and growing less “wee” with each passing month) asked his father yesterday “Why do you like Winston Churchill so much?” Knowing the boy’s problem with focusing from time to time your Maximum Leader realized that he had to distill it down to a short “soundbite” to give an answer. The answer he gave was, “Churchill saved Western Civilization in the early years of World War 2.” There is, of course, so much more to admire about Churchill than just that. But that one is pretty big. You should visit the Churchill Centre to learn more about the great man.

Your Maximum Leader will ask you to, this day, remember Winston Churchill.
Remember Winston Churchill

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Twitter: @maximumleader

Happy Day! You don’t look a day over 560.

Greetings, loyal minons. Your Maximum Leader wanted to share the observation that today, October 2, 2015 is the 563rd anniversary of the birth of Richard Plantangenet, Duke of Gloucester and later King Richard III of England.

As you may know, Richard’s body was recently discovered and reinterred in Leicester Cathedral. If you haven’t, you could visit the web site of the Richard III Society to learn more about Richard.

Carry on.

The Voice

In youth, the voice was nothing more than an occasional whisper on the wind; a noise so faint and nearly imperceptible that is passed into unconsciousness. As a young adult the voice changed into a distant sound in the background of other sounds in the mind. In maturity the voice was a nearby whisper in the ear of the mind, if not the body itself. In decrepitude the voice was a raging scream that echoed constantly and had to be shouted out in vain attempts to silence it.

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