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.

By the Pricking of My Thumbs, Something Screwed Up this Way Comes

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader apologizes if you have had trouble reading or commenting on this site. There was some crazy screwed up crap going on behind the scenes of which he was not aware until today. He believes he used his (meagre) coding skilz to correct the problem.

Your forbearance is appreciated.

Carry on.

Thought.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will say that if your eyes are cast upon these words, you are very loyal indeed. He’s given you nothing to be loyal about.

Recently, your Maximum Leader attended the graduation of a cousin from the Maryland Institute College of Art. While there he spoke (briefly) to one of the professors. That professor indicated that the most important thing for the graduates to do if they hadn’t found jobs in their field was to keep producing something. To schedule a time to be creative and to not let it grow cold. Of course, those words rang true to your Maximum Leader and this blog. He really needs to schedule some time a few days a week to write something. He might have to give up the 3rd person schtick if it hinders him writing. But he needs to do it.

There have been some updates recently. Your Maximum Leader hopes that they will be more frequent.

Carry on.

Richard III - RIP

PLANTAGENET — Richard, great king and true friend of the rights of man, died at Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485. Murdered by traitors and, dead, maligned by knaves and ignored by Laodiceans, he merits our devoted remembrance.

He now rests in peace in Leicester Cathedral.

A Comment Deserving Its Own Post

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been reading over the comments to his recent blogging adventures and he’s decided that his (virtual) friend The Ancient’s comment deserves to be moved up. Here tis:

A few miles from where we live in the country, this environmental atrocity has recently appeared –

http://www.cootersplace.com/museum/cooters-sperryville/

My wife remarked that it would inevitably depress property values in the county. I demurred, but the more I thought about it, the more I came to think she’s right. And when I see as caravan of sixty pickup trucks bearing Battle Flags racing down 211, as I did last weekend, I wince.

I’m closely related to both Jefferson Davis and Tecumseh Sherman. A ggg-grandfather died leading the Confederate charge into the Peach Orchard on the second day at Gettysburg. Another was a senior Union officer at Fredericksburg. And I am sick to death of people who claim the Battle Flag is all about their ancestors and “The Honored Dead.” Because the sort of men who drive pick-up trucks with the Battle Flag are also the sort of men who don’t know their grandmothers’ maiden names.

Once upon a time one could reasonably make an argument about “heritage.” No more. The Battle Flag means anti-black racism. Everything else is a smokescreen. Flying the Battle Flag in 2015 doesn’t mean you support the Klan. It doesn’t mean you want to resegregate the public schools. It doesn’t mean a lot of things. But it does mean you’re morally tone-deaf.

Ahhh… Your Maximum Leader knows Cooter’s Place. He hasn’t been inside the one in Sperryville, but he knows where it is. He actually has visited (once) the one in Nashville. He was taken there by a business associate on a lark.

Your Maximum Leader cannot agree more with so many of The Ancient’s points in his comments. While your Maximum Leader can’t specifically cite any ancestors’ service in the Civil War (though he’s been told that they were Union vets from Ohio and Pennsylvania in the family), he’s sure he has some. And frankly he’d be willing to guess that there were some on both sides. That said, we are modern people living in another age from our ancestors. Our blood is not attainted by an ancestors service on to the Confederacy in a way that we should feel an obligation to make history what it isn’t.

Part of your Maximum Leader’s point in the two Civil War related posts he’s put up is to observe that history is what it is. We can move on from it in a constructive way, or we can choose not to. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t want to forget or diminish our history, he also doesn’t want to sanitize it. But history has a context and knowledge of that context should inform our actions today.

Also, for what it is worth, The Ancient has pickups bearing Confederate flags tearing by his home. In your Maximum Leaders area (of Stafford and Fredericksburg, VA) the pickups bear both the US flag and the Confederate flag. He’ll have to get some photos of one next time he sees one. (Which will probably be tomorrow…)

Carry on.

Civil War Thoughts

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been thinking & reading about the American Civil War a lot recently. He supposes that some of this comes from the whole outcry over the Confederate Battle Flag. Of course, he’s already blogged about that subject. Although he should note that he’s been thinking about the comments to that post a bit. He’ll come around and mention some of those thoughts in a moment, but he’ll also add here that he’d love to get together with his friend Robbo and discuss how some of our historickal gloss might differ. (Over adult beverages of course.)

All that said… Here are some random Civil War thoughts in no particular order.

Your Maximum Leader would like to take a moment to address some posts by our friend Bill. He was kind enough to comment on the flag post (below) and asked that we take a moment to read over his recent posts on the Civil War. (They are here and here.) Your Maximum Leader’s comments may seem somewhat short (and perhaps dismissive). They are not meant to be so. It comes down to a few points with which your Maximum Leader must quibble.

The first is the States’ Rights/Slavery point. Bill’s comments read, to your Maximum Leader at least, as an argument laying out thusly: 1) Slavery was the locus of the States’ Rights argument, but the States’ Rights argument is still the primary cause of the war. 2) That war was the result of the ossification of the abolitionist position vis-a-vis the previous attempts at compromise over the expansion of slavery. 3) The war started as a fight over the practical limits of Federal vs. State power and was then transformed into a moral fight over slavery. 4) The Confederacy was conquered because they couldn’t continue the fight, but they still held fast to the ideas that prompted the war. 5) The Union didn’t have a rebuilding plan and that lead to problems.

Your Maximum Leader will start by agreeing that the full causes of the war are many. That being said, all of those causes come down to slavery. Would slavery continue in states where it existed? Would it expand westward? Every single argument about the power of the States versus the Federal Government all come down to slavery. The secession documents of every single state of the Confederacy all specifically state that the reason for secession is slavery. (Here is South Carolina’s. Here is Georgia’s. Here is Mississippi’s. Here is Virginia’s.) The reason for going to the States’ Rights argument was to preserve slavery. Every single state of the Confederacy disseminated as their full and public rationale for secession the issue of slavery. As many other reasons as there were, and as many rationales as were given, the reason for all the intellectual energy and rationalization was slavery. Because the heart of the matter is slavery, the primary cause of the Civil War is primarily a moral one.

(NB: For what it is worth, your Maximum Leader is saddened by the fact (and it is a fact) that the well that is the “States’ Rights” argument is a poisoned well. He really does wish that we could use the State vs. Federal power argument more in America in the 21st Century. But sadly whenever you try to pull out “State’s Rights” one has to remember that the only two times in American history that States’ Rights have been used to justify policy were to preserve slavery and to deny equal rights to Americans. He wishes that it were otherwise, but it is not. Thus, your Maximum Leader has to argue that we need to do more to empower the 10th Amendment. But most smart people can see through that camouflage.)

Your Maximum Leader agrees with Bill that the Abolitionist position in the North had grown harder and eventually got to the point where compromise was not possible. Your Maximum Leader would point out that the ossification got just as hard on the Southern side. For every William Lloyd Garrison there was a James Henry Hammond. We need to recognize that both sides dug in and no one was going to move from their entrenched position.

Bill notes that the failure of compromise is deadly for democracy. Broadly speaking, your Maximum Leader agrees. The problem in this case is can you compromise on what is essentially a moral issue. And issue that comes down to a fundamental breakdown between something being good or evil. If you believe slavery is evil, how can you compromise about it? We deal with this same issue every day in the United States. It is the pro-life/pro-abortion problem. If abortion is evil, you can’t compromise about it can you? (No, you really can’t.) The situation in the United States in 1860 was essentially split into groups that wanted the abolition of slavery, the continuation of slavery, or those that wanted to let things ride as they were (more or less). Abraham Lincoln, though the candidate of the anti-slavery Republicans, was trying to let things ride. Lincoln, as anyone who has read any history book knows, wanted above all to preserve the Union. As Lincoln himself said as late as 1862, if he could preserve the Union and free no slaves he would. If he could preserve the Union and free some slaves he would. If he could preserve the Union and free all the slaves he would. Preservation of the Union was the heart of the matter for Lincoln. Events would, however, run on their own. The question became what type of a Union would be preserved. By the time 1862 came to a close it was clear to everyone in the North that the Union was to be preserved through the abolition of slavery throughout the land. The broad point your Maximum Leader is making here is simply that once the two sides became ossified there wasn’t an alternative to war. Once war began, it was going to become a moral crusade.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader read, years back, a book or essay (perhaps by Victor Davis Hanson?) about how modern wars waged fully by democracies become moral crusades. The cost of war in blood and treasure is so great that people/voters can’t accept a result that returns everything to the status quo ante. That might have worked for conscripted armies fighting for a king; but when voters decide to go to war they want change as a result. Once it became evident that the Civil War was going to be bloody (possibly after 1st Bull Run/Manassas, but definitely after Shiloh) the people in the North were not going to accept the South back with slavery. If Northern boys were going to die in the numbers they were dying, there was going to be change.)

Bill’s essays make mention that the Confederacy was conquered but they didn’t surrender their ideology. Bill also states that the Union didn’t have a plan for rebuilding the South. There is a lot to those two points. Yes, the South was conquered. That was the only way to preserve the Union. Through conquest. But, your Maximum Leader would say that there was a plan for rebuilding the South. In fact there were lots of different plans for rebuilding the South. Lincoln had one. Congressional Republicans had another. Congressional Democrats had another. Your Maximum Leader will not go into too great a detail here, but he will recommend “Reconstruction” by Eric Foner. All the different plans for reconstructing the South failed as a result of political forces in America in the 1870s. Those forces ended Reconstruction and allowed the South to try to revert back to the status quo ante to the extent that they were able. So, broadly speaking, Bill is right in that the conquered people didn’t surrender the ideas that that they had fought over, and that ideology came back to cause many modern problems. Your Maximum Leader will not, at least at this time, comment on where Bill takes his argument after the Civil War…

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader has finished the first volume of Shelby Foote’s “The Civil War: A Narrative.” He last read Foote’s work in high school. So it has been at least 25 years (probably more like 30 years) since he last read over this great work. In those years, your Maximum Leader has changed a bit. Broadly speaking many of his thoughts on the war, the causes and courses of the war are unchanged. But many are open for some reinterpretation and expansion. Among the items that your Maximum Leader is finding out about himself and the Civil War are these: 1) he appears to have forgotten most of what he ever knew about campaigns west of the Appalachian Mountains; 2) many of the “characters” of the war are pretty interesting with varying shades of nuance to them - but there are many very colorful ones, 3) his view that the war was lengthened by the ability of Southern generals and the incompetence of Northern ones has been modified to one where Southern generals were able and audacious and Northern generals while generally able were awfully cautious and feared audacity, and finally 4) both sides could have used some serious improvement to intelligence gathering.

Your Maximum Leader should also say that the major change in his thought about the Civil War has been about how many people are so drawn to the war. Until a few weeks ago, your Maximum Leader would have said that he didn’t really understand why some people (particularly some Southern people) are so involved in the Civil War. It is like their whole lives (or at least a significant part of their free time) is spent thinking about, reenacting, and otherwise rehashing the Civil War. But now, he sort of gets it. He thinks he understands why so many people are so personally invested in the Civil War.

Your Maximum Leader has always thought, and frankly continues to think, that the Civil War was inevitable and its actual outcome was just as inevitable. No matter how you want to argue it, the North had more men, more factories, more farms, more everything. In fact they had so much more that it is embarrassing to actually contemplate. (Your Maximum Leader pondered every time he’s read, in Foote, that a Confederate army captured a Union supply stockpile and got so many thousands of uniforms, thousands of rifles, hundreds of field guns, millions of rounds of ammunition, millions of pounds of rations, thousands of wagons and hundreds of horses. He’s pondered that these captures were windfalls for the Confederates who desperately needed them. He’s also pondered how their loss was nothing more than a momentary blip for the Union.) When you look at the indicators that directly correlate to victory in a war (economic, industrial, agricultural, and population indicators) there is no way that the South could have prevailed and remained an independent nation. There is always lots of talk about foreign intervention, but when you stop to read British and French sources one realizes that foreign intervention wasn’t a real possibility. All that being said, the Civil War is fascinating.

Yup. The Civil War is fascinating. Your Maximum Leader is getting it. Specifically, what he is getting is that there are so many compelling narratives through the Civil War it is possible to get engrossed in them. It is easily to become emotionally invested in the political figures, the generals and the soldiers. It helps that everyone in the war is American and that we can still see our present selves projected back onto our ancestors. Your Maximum Leader knows someone who will not eat pepper in their food. He just recently read that Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson believed that peppering his food made his leg ache. Your Maximum Leader sees the caution (the overabundance of caution in fact) of George McClellan in many people he knows. There is something eminently relateable about the Civil War. At least something relateable about the Civil War as written by Shelby Foote & Bruce Catton.

Anyway… Your Maximum Leader is getting it.

Off for vacation next week. Your Maximum Leader may bring his computer and blog some. Then again, he might just read. He’s taking his Kindle, Vol 2 of Shelby Foote’s “Civil War” and a novel his mum gifted him for his birthday (Wolf Hall) to the beach with him. That should be sufficient.

Carry on.

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.

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