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Musings on Scottish Independence

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has, for a while now, been thinking about Scottish Independence. If you didn’t know, in just over a fortnight Scots (and some expat Scots) will get to vote on a straightforward question, “Should Scotland be and independent country?”

Your Maximum Leader is deeply conflicted on this question.

For those who don’t know, your Maximum Leader’s ancestry is Anglo-Scottish. It is a little heavier on the “Scottish” side than the “Anglo” side - but it is a nearly even mix. (For what it is worth, there is some Welsh, Irish and German in that mix too. So that makes your Maximum Leader a pretty good American mongrel as it were.)

Like many Americans, some generations removed and of a certain cultural background, your Maximum Leader has an affinity, perhaps even a love, of the “mother country.” Of course, he realizes that his love of Scotland, a nation in which he’s never lived and he hasn’t visited in decades, is a love of an idealized nation. He knows more Scottish history than most Americans. He (casually) follows Scottish politics. But he is an American, not a Scot. So at some level his opinions on this whole matter are worth just about nothing…

Here are your Maximum Leader’s musings on Scottish Independence.

As an American, he wants to see people who feel they ought to be a “free and independent” become “free and independent.” This belief is tempered by knowledge of history and his own experience which tells him that though some people want to be free and independent; they aren’t ready or able to be free and independent nation-states. The Scots are certainly ready and able to be a free and independent nation-state; but should they be? They are half of the most successful union of two nation-states in the history of mankind. The Act of Union of 1707 created Great Britain and thus created the most influential nation-state in the world for nearly two hundred years. It isn’t a stretch to say that the ascendancy of British model flowed from Britain herself to the US as British power declined in the wake of WWI. Why mess that up? The United Kingdom (of Great Britain & Northern Ireland) still “punches above her weight” in the world. Scotland is an important component of the UK and the UK’s success on the world stage.

Would Scotland continue to “punch above her weight” without being part of the UK/Great Britain? Your Maximum Leader doubts it. The foundations of the Scottish independence movement all involve suppositions that don’t seem to be supported by facts. The proponents of Scottish independence believe they will get to keep the British Pound and a say in how it is managed. That isn’t going to happen. They believe they are going to get all the North Sea Oil. They very well may get a significant portion of North Sea Oil (as it is mostly in Scottish waters); but England will get some and that resource is finite. It isn’t wise to bet future financial stability on an openly traded commodity with a limited life span. They assume they will assume a fairly small portion of the national debt of the UK. The assumption is they will assume debt based on the population of Scotland relative to England/Wales/Northern Ireland. Why wouldn’t they be burdened with a portion of debt relative to the amount of the debt for which they are actually responsible - this is to say debt that was incurred for payments in Scotland? They believe that they can quickly join the European Union. Frankly, your Maximum Leader thinks that Scotland’s chances of EU membership are slim to none. (He believes that Spain & Italy, among others, will aggressively block adding Scotland to the EU. Allowing Scotland in would set a bad precedent if you are trying to keep places like Catalonia and the Veneto in modern Spain and Italy respectively.) Your Maximum Leader can go on; but further examples all fall into the same pattern. Pro-independence supporters promote a rosy suppositions with no guarantee of future outcomes.

This is what gets at your Maximum Leader. It goes against his native conservative instincts. To paraphrase Michael Oakeshott, your Maximum Leader prefers the known to the unknown, the tried to the untried, and fact to mystery. Scots have a workable political system that is known, tried, and has done well by Scots for over 200 years. The future is a place of mystery and uncertain outcomes. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure why one would voluntarily overthrow a system that is working (and working well) in favor of a system about which nothing is certain or known.

Well… Your Maximum Leader does understand the impulse to change. It is the impulse at work throughout the world all the time. It is the hope that things could be better. Scotland could be better if they had control of their own foreign policy. Scotland could be better if they had full control of their own resources. It is the promise of things that could be better that makes people want to try their hand at independence. When one is dealing with desires, aspirations, and a complex national identity; one can understand why there is appeal to change. But in most cases, the pitfalls that arise from monumental decisions fall largely into the “unforeseen consequences” area. In the case of Scotland, many of the consequences are being foreseen and are being dismissed with a blythe “we can work it out.” Sadly, it is in the “working out” of problems that true and unrepairable consequences of action are discovered.

At some wistful level your Maximum Leader would like to see Scotland reclaim her independence. But that level is one formed from a view of an idealized future based on a long-gone and idealized history. When your Maximum Leader steps back and looks at the issue of independence in a more reasoned and unemotional way, he sees too many questions that have no answer. That should give Scots pause.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

A Lesson Learnt

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is at the Villainschloss with his two daughters. Mrs. Villain and the Wee Villain (who isn’t so wee anymore as he is nearly 5 ft tall at 10 yrs old) are in the greater Boston area right now.

You see, last month, Mrs. Villain’s uncle died. He had been battling cancer, and finally succumbed. It was our family plan to change our vacation plans to Canada and divert to Boston for the funeral. But, the funeral was postponed until this weekend to accommodate the attendance of more relatives. Sadly, due to the beginning of the school year and some anticipated financial outlays, not all of your Maximum Leader’s family was going to be able to attend the memorial service/funeral which occurred earlier today. We determined early on that Mrs. Villain had to go. We bought a plane ticket and made arrangements. The Villainettes were, in a way, glad not to be able to go. Funerals aren’t their thing.

And that is what is prompting your Maximum Leader to write. Funerals aren’t their thing. To be honest, they have not faced much death in their short lives. Your Maximum Leader had dealt with more death in his family than they have at the corresponding time in their lives. The girls have developed something akin to a fear of death. It is your Maximum Leader’s pet theory that they have gotten this from their lovely mother, your Maximum Leader’s beloved wife. She has a fear of death. She doesn’t like to discuss death. When your Maximum Leader jokes about his own mortality - something he thinks he does only to poke a little fun at while at the same time annoying his lovely wife - she gets upset. His daughters may have a degree of fear of death that your Maximum Leader doesn’t have.

This isn’t to say that your Maximum Leader doesn’t have a healthy respect for death, or seeks it. He doesn’t. But he has come to peace with the idea that death is inevitable. And when one considers the randomness of the universe, it is something that can come unexpectedly and in a way that one cannot control. Your Maximum Leader feels (rather strongly) that we in the West have done our best to isolate, or perhaps better said - insulate, ourselves from death. As recently as 75 yrs ago people routinely died at home. With their family. In multigenerational homes grandparents regularly shuffled their mortal coils in the presence of their grandchildren. It just happened. Today people die in hospitals, or nursing homes. They often die without their extended families near. We have become, culturally, Louis XIV who banished the dying from Versailles so that he did not have to deal with his own mortality.

So. The Villainettes while not “happy” to miss their great-uncle’s funeral, weren’t all that upset to have to stay home.

But surprisingly, the Wee Villain was upset to stay home.

You may recall that a few short lines ago your Maximum Leader said that the Wee Villain was in Boston with his mother at the funeral. This was an ad hoc decision - to have him go. For a the past two weeks the Wee Villain would keep mentioning that he wanted to go to the funeral. Mrs. Villain and your Maximum Leader for a time thought that this was because the Wee Villain thought he’d be getting a trip to Boston out of it and might get some good food and catch a Red Sox game. After a few times mentioning it, your Maximum Leader took his son aside and asked him why he wanted to go to the funeral so much. His answer surprised your Maximum Leader.

He said, “I want to see our cousins and be there for them.” That answer wasn’t too surprising. But when your Maximum Leader pointed out that there wouldn’t be time for fun or pizza or baseball, the Wee Villain said “Civilized people bury their dead, and I need to help.”

Your Maximum Leader immediately recognized those words… Last summer, we traveled to New England (Boston & Rhode Island) for vacation; but also to bury Mrs. Villain’s grandmother (the mother of her uncle who just passed). She passed early last year, and again for ease of getting people together, the funeral was delayed. At the burial at the family plot, after the minister gave his remarks all were invited to place a shovelful of dirt into the grave. Your Maximum Leader’s children looked at him in horror as he held the shovel up and motioned for one of them to take it and place dirt into the grave. Your Maximum Leader walked up to his children and said, “Civilized people bury their dead. It is a sign of respect and I will not have you all shirk your duties in this. You will do it today for Great Nannie. One day I hope you will do it for me.” The first of his children to take the shovel from him was his son. All three of his children did what your Maximum Leader expected/told them to do.

Apparently, the lesson was really learnt by one of his children.

After his response, your Maximum Leader made arrangements for him to go to the funeral. He was there today, doing what civilized people do and burying his dead.

Your Maximum Leader is also told that there were lobster rolls and some baseball among cousins after the memorial service.

And that is good.

God bless you Bill. Requiescat in pace.

Or as they say in the land of our ancestry: Gus am bris an là

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Richard the Third - RIP (next March)

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader asks that you remember Richard III, King of England (as he does this time of year). (NB: This is mostly a repost of that which appears here year after year.) He was killed in battle at Bosworth this day in 1485. He fought valiantly, if not triumphantly. He was the last Plantagenet to rule England. He was the last King of England to die in battle. And his death marks the generally accepted end of both the Wars of the Roses and the medieval period in England.

richard_iii_of_england.jpg

It is from Shakespeare’s play Richard III that the name of this site is taken. The important lines come in Act One, Scene III:

But then I sigh; and, with a piece of scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.

Richard is, in your Maximum Leader’s opinion, one of the most maligned kings in all history. Shakespeare’s play, while vastly entertaining, is far from an accurate portrayal of history and the man as we now know him.

Your Maximum Leader, out of habit, will republish the famous Rex Stout New York Times obituary for King Richard:

“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.”

For those of you interested in learning more about Richard you might try the following links: Battle of Bosworth Field from Wikipedia, or the general Wiki on Richard.

GENERAL UPDATE: Since the recent exhumation of the remains of Richard the Third we have learned so much about him. For instance, he liked indulged in rich foods and wine while King. (Which frankly should be a perk of kingship.) He was brutally killed in combat. (Which we knew but now have evidence of.) And now we know that he will be (re-)buried next March in a rather handsome tomb in Leicester Cathedral.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Something great is going on in Washington

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is very excited about something great going on in Washington right now. But he fears that commenting on it will jinx it.

He doesn’t want a jinx. He should just say that he will continue to drink dark & stormys and watch TV in his bedroom every night while watching MASN sports network.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Middle East Diatribing

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been paying a lot of attention to the news of late. There is so much going on it is hard to get it all into a single post. He will try to get some highlights of his thoughts together in this post as his thoughts relate to the Middle East.

Let your Maximum Leader begin with the easiest part of the Middle East. That part is Israel. Your Maximum Leader isn’t saying that the whole Arab-Israeli conflict is the “easy” part of the Middle East. It isn’t. For your Maximum Leader, Israel is the easiest place to start his discussion. Allow him to start thusly. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is fully deserving of full and robust US support. Frankly it is the only country in the region worthy of the support of any rational person who supports Western Civilization in any meaningful sense. Israel is a fully functioning Western Democracy, born of the Western Tradition, with civil society and political institutions that would be familiar to any American. They are a rational actor in an irrational region.

This is not to say that Israel is perfect, or blameless, in how it conducts its affairs. It is not. But a rational and reasonable person can understand why Israel reacts the way it does and should be able to support Israel.

Has Israel treated the people of Gaza badly? Yes. Do the Gazans (of all factions, Hamas, PLS, Hezbollah, etc) have a legitimate beef with the heavy-handed Israeli blockade of Gaza that has gone on for years? Yes, they actually do. But on the other hand (the hand that your Maximum Leader puts more weight on right now to be clear), the Gazans are committed to the destruction of Israel. The Gazans are not good neighbors. The Gazans have consistently shown that they are unwilling to govern themselves in a civilized manner and show that they are undeserving of an independent state.

Hamas, a faction that has enjoyed wide and deep support among Gazans for a long time, wants to revert the area that is now Gaza, Israel, the West Bank and other territories to a single political entity in which Jews can be eradicated (and probably Christians too after Jews are gone). They are not looking to establish a tolerant, or moderate state. They are looking to create exactly what exists in the territories controlled by ISIS.

Frankly, when Hamas started launching rockets at Israel, your Maximum Leader thought Israel started off by being very restrained. They didn’t march in right away. They didn’t start retaliating right away. Frankly your Maximum Leader would have. He knows it’s a tired cliche, but if Canada started launching rockets from Toronto to Buffalo (or Vancouver to Seattle or Windsor to Detroit - yes even Detroit) or Mexico started launching rockets from Tijuana to San Diego or even if Minneapolis started launching rockets at St Paul; your Maximum Leader would be calling up reserves and bombing the crap out of the aggressor.

Your Maximum Leader will speculate on a few items here. 1) Does the perception of “disproportionally” offend some in the US and the West and make those offended people anti-Israel? This is to say that because the losses are so much higher on the Gazan side there is some perception of “unfairness” and these people can’t abide the perception of “unfairness?” This is a serious thought. Are some people turned off at seeing that there are thousands of dead Gazans for a few tens of dead Israelis they they just think Israel needs to be stopped? Your Maximum Leader thinks this does describe a number of those who are anti-Israel. 2) Is being anti-Israel or anti-Zionist just veiled anti-Semitism? Your Maximum Leader thinks that this is the case among many Europeans and a fair number of Americans. 3) Do some people project their own national guilt onto Israel and want to roll back time to assuage the guilt? This is a uniquely American position. Your Maximum Leader wonders if some Americans think that the creation of Israel is actually the root cause of the problem and if Israel were “uncreated” everything would be okay. The sublimated national guilt here is the “we took America from the Indians” guilt. People who feel guilt at the taking of America from the natives don’t want to uncreate the USA and displace themselves but would feel a whole lot better if they could uncreate another country and displace some others who shouldn’t be there anyway.

That last one is a little far out, but some conversations your Maximum Leader’s had recently do make him think that it could be plausible.

So… Let your Maximum Leader take up a point he made a moment ago and do a little segue. The Gazans have shown themselves incapable of being an independent state. Do you know who else has shown themselves to be incapable of being - or at least running - and independent state? Just about every nation in the region that was part of the “Arab Spring.”

Can we name the nations where the Arab Spring has turned out okay? Hummmm… Algeria…

Okay. That is it. Algeria. (And Morocco to a lesser extent in that the Arab Spring promoted constitutional reforms in the existing framework of the government.)

Where have “liberation movements” in the Arab world failed? Egypt. Libya. Lebanon. Syria.

You know. Back in the day when rational, intelligent, and grown-up behaving people “ran” the world there was a way of distinguishing “your bastard” from “the other guys bastard” from “a pack of murderous rabble.” Your Maximum Leader is thinking back to places like Chile under Pinochet. Yes, Chile could be a very unpleasant, dangerous and deadly place for people who didn’t support the Pinochet dictatorship. But the Pinochet dictatorship provided security and a free economy. Also, Chile was on “our” side in the Cold War. Pinochet was our bastard, so to speak. Sure many liberals didn’t like that the US supported Pinochet for all those years, but in the end, Pinochet was eased out. Chile became free politically. And there was no bloody civil war resultant from that changeover.

(NB: BTW, isn’t it funny how many liberal/progressive people who couldn’t stand the Pinochet regime are more than pleased with China. Isn’t China effectively the same type of nation? Political dictatorship with a secure and stable society with a reasonably free economy. Interesting…)

Anyhooo… Your Maximum Leader will posit to you all that we were better off - and frankly the citizens of many of the nations where the Arab Spring has failed were better off - with the dictators. Quadaffi was an evil murderous bastard - but is Libya better off now without him? Egypt’s military pulled the plug on their experiment with reform. Your Maximum Leader is glad they have. He actually had high hopes for Egypt. He thought that the moderate educated Egyptians who seemed to be the major protest force would somehow couple with the Army and create a secular moderate Arab Republic. Too bad they had to decide to rely on a democratic process that put Hamas in charge.

Syria is still fighting it out.

Let us think of Syria for a while here. Is there a sane human being out there that believes that Syria will be better off completely throwing off the yoke of Assad?

Okay. Let your Maximum Leader say it. He doesn’t. He is, at this point, hoping that Assad pulls this out and GOES BACK TO BEING THE BRUTAL DICTATOR HE WAS IN THE PAST. The key here is going back to the way he was. If he does win and crush the various rebelling factions assailing him and then decided to be a different kind of brutal dictator then we have a different problem. The whole House of Assad are evil men who do terrible things. But they are (or at least have been in the past) secular and rational. They act in their own self-interest, which is known and can be dealt with. They are not the (largely religious) crazies that are running Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIS among others.

So… Now we get to ISIS. Or the Islamic State. Or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Or whatever they are called. Your Maximum Leader will go with ISIS for now (although it offends me because he doesn’t see why he would want to besmirch the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis in any way).

ISIS is what you get when you mix religion, organization and civil unrest. Your Maximum Leader was surprised when they appeared out of nowhere and suddenly controlled a territory larger than most US states. He was even more surprised when they were able to beat the pants off the Iraqi Army. He is now not surprised by anything ISIS is doing. They are a motivated, organized, dedicated and now well-equipped force. As much as it is repulsive to your Maximum Leader, the “state” ISIS is creating is more of a functioning state than either Syria or Iraq have been for a few years.

Your Maximum Leader can see how ISIS could take root in Syria. But he thought that Iraq would put up more of a fight. That Iraq is not able to defend itself or possibly even remain a viable state itself is due to the United States. To channel Colin Powell… We broke it. We broke Iraq. The good ole US of A. Your Maximum Leader was in favor of breaking Iraq. Let him be honest. He was for it. He wasn’t for it in exactly the way the Bush Administration was; but he wanted to see Saddam Hussein gone and he wanted to “shake up” the region.

Guess what. That was a monumentally stupid fucking call.

Your Maximum Leader, would take a completely different approach now. This is, of course, only with the benefit of hindsight. Seeing what is becoming of the area. Seeing how the Arab Spring has turned out. Seeing how unrest in the region leads directly to what can only be called Islamic theocracies with a murderous and expansionist bent. He would be happy to continue to contain Saddam Hussein and let the miserable bastard stay on.

But we didn’t and now we are paying the price.

So… What to do? Well… If you are President Obama you don’t have a lot of options. He can’t go back into Iraq because his whole foreign policy was to get us out of Iraq. He doesn’t have lots of tricks to use except airpower and arming groups to fight ISIS. Your Maximum Leader is all for arming the Kurds and letting them declare their own state. Sure it will piss off everyone else in the region; but at this point the options are all bad, we’re only trying to find the least bad options out there. Letting the Kurds fight for their own nation makes some sense. One supposes that we will do as much as we can from the air to support the rump Iraq. Perhaps in supporting a rump Iraq we might wind up getting a little closer to Iran - who one suspects will help the Shias in southern Iraq.

Again… There aren’t lots of options out there. And the ones that are there, all of them are bad. Your Maximum Leader is open to being educated to options he doesn’t see. But there is a whole lot of blame and criticizing and not a lot of presenting options out there. All your Maximum Leader has he’s put out here. Here it is again in case you missed it: Support Israel. Support the Egyptian military government. Don’t stand in the way of Assad taking back control in Syria. Arm the Kurds. Airstrike the crap out of ISIS. Hope a rump Iraq can make it.

That is pretty much it. And it sucks quite frankly…

All this, and your Maximum Leader hasn’t even touched on Russia, Europe and Ukraine… Or Ebola. Or healthcare. Or the impending US elections.

Ugh.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

When the world is running down.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has much to say, but hasn’t been making the time to say it. There is so much to say about Israel and Gaza. (Your Maximum Leader comes down squarely for Israel; but admits that Israel makes mistakes that should be addressed.) There is much to say about Ukraine. (Where your Maximum Leader is sympathetic to the plight of Ukraine; but does wonder what exactly we can do there that would be constructive.) There is much to say about ebola. (Calm down everyone. No really. Calm down.) There is much to say about the trial of Bob McDonnell, former Governor of Virginia. (Which your Maximum Leader thinks is just sad all around.)

All these subjects and more that call for comment… But are met with silence here.

Your Maximum Leader’s kids will be out with grandparents this weekend… Perhaps he’ll write…

Maybe he’ll tell you about his recent trip to Canada… (Yes… He visited with Skippy!)

Oh yes… Happy Birthday wishes to your Maximum Leader’s mum… Today is the big day…

Carry on.

100 Below: Beware Cosplay Girls

We met at Comi-Con. She was the hottest babe wearing a metal bikini. Every guy there wanted to do unspeakable things to her.

I got to.

She was weird. She said her people were coming and they were going to change things.

One day after sex she said it was done. I asked what. She smiled. I thought she meant us, but she didn’t.

I came home a month later and found her. She was squatting, rubbing herself and making sex noises.

Then she screamed and passed an egg.

A huge fucking egg.

She says its “ours.”

Happy Birfday ‘Murica

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has had a busy 4th of July, Independence Day as it were.

He visited his sainted in-laws briefly and then returned to the Villainschloss.

Tomorrow, he departs for the Great White North. Oh Canada!

Yes, he is taking the family for a little trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls.

See you all around.

Carry on.

Check out your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

So I Was Out On The Interwebs When This Award Came At Me

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was perusing some blogs recently and discovered that he’d been nominated for the Liebster Award. He was nominated by his virtual friend, Professor Mondo. One day your Maximum Leader hopes to meet the Professor in real life, by the by…

So… It seems that your Maximum Leader must reveal of himself for this whole Liebster Award thing to work. So if he slips out of his familiar to you all 3rd person narration, you must forgive him in advance.

First up… 11 random tibits about your Maximum Leader:

1) He was recently advised by his doctor to “cut back on carbs.” Your Maximum Leader has effectively only seriously “cut back” on one carb. That carb is ice cream. He’s not had ice cream (or a milkshake or similar ice creamy foodstuff) in a few months.

2) Did your Maximum Leader mention that he REALLY REALLY loves ice cream? He should have if he didn’t.

3) Your Maximum Leader is addicted to a game on his phone called “Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North” by a group called Kabam.

4) In the “Kingdoms of Camelot” game he just mentioned above, his screen name is Lord Blackadder. He chose the name Lord Blackadder because he loves the old Rowan Atkinson show “Blackadder.” Your Maximum Leader was told about the show many decades ago, but only got around in the past few years to watching all of them thanks to Amazon Prime. Although your Maximum Leader thought he’d like the first season the best (which was the one he’d actually seen some episodes of years ago), but in fact he thinks the second season is the best. (The second season follows Blackadder during the reign of Elizabeth I.)

5) In the same vein as Blackadder (to wit: a person on the fringes of famous historical persons or events), your Maximum Leader is a great fan of George MacDonald Fraser’s “Flashman” books.

6) Your Maximum Leader is trying to teach himself to stop putting two spaces after a period when he types. It is a problem when he is on Twitter as that extra space uses up a valuable character. (Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader!) In case you were asking why this is a thing… Your Maximum Leader is of an age when he didn’t take a “keyboarding” class in high school but took a “typing” class in high school. He learned to type on an IBM Selectric Typewriter. He was taught that you always put two spaces after a period to make the sentence breaks easier to spot.

7) Your Maximum Leader owns a kilt. Which he bought in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1985. He’s had it altered once. He trots it out about once a year.

8 ) Your Maximum Leader owns more shoes now than he has at any other time in his adult life. (2 pairs of boots. 3 pairs of “good” dress/formal shoes. 1 pair of saddle shoes - which seem more dressy than casual but not really dressy. 2 pairs of nice shoes for work. 2 pairs of sneakers.)

9) Your Maximum Leader cures his own bacon, grinds his own sausage and cures ham - but not “country” ham. It disappoints him that he’s not done a good country ham. He doesn’t have a place where he controls temperature and humidity well enough. Or barring temp and humidity control, he doesn’t have a large enough vessel to completely pack the ham in salt.

10) Your Maximum Leader owns a few guns, but he doesn’t own a shotgun. (But he really wants one.)

11) Your Maximum Leader once had a conversation with the late Senator Edward Kennedy. In a men’s room. In the Kennedy Center.

There you go. Pretty random…

Now for questions from the good Professor…

1. If you could give a really painful (but not permanent — we’re not awful people) charley horse to anyone in the world without fear of retribution, who would it be?

Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure that he is worked up enough about anyone to want to give them a charley horse. He thinks that Vladimir Putin could use one, just on principal. Plus, it seems like ole Vlad doesn’t have to take a lot of abuse from anyone. (Certainly not from any Western leader recently for sure…)

2. DC or Marvel?

This is sort of tough. When your Maximum Leader was younger he read some DC comics. He was a fan of Batman comics. He is a fan of most of the Batman films. He enjoyed Superman comics when he was young. But he is not a fan of any of the recent Superman movies. Intellectually, Superman is the most interesting and should have the most potential. But no one can seem to translate that to the screen. Your Maximum Leader had high hopes for “Man of Steel” but it fell way short of expectations.

That being said, after looking through some boxes in the attic, it appears as though your Maximum Leader owned and kept more Marvel comics than he did DC. He still has many copies of “Tomb of Dracula,” “GI Joe,” “John Carter, Warlord of Mars,” “Conan the Barbarian” and some others. All Marvel titles.

So… Your Maximum Leader supposes he is a Marvel guy.

3. Who would you cast to play the lead in a biopic of you?

This is a toughie. Your Maximum Leader had a whole bunch of actors in mind. The list contained actors that your Maximum Leader thought could capture his essential qi. (He didn’t try to think of an actor that resembled him physically - that would be a fruitless endeavor…) Among the actors that bounced around in your Maximum Leader’s mind were: Gary Oldman, John Malkovich, Christian Bale, Michael Sheen, or Edward Norton. (Those last two by the by happen to be the same age as your Maximum Leader.)

But in the end it was none of those fine actors…

In the final analysis, should a biopic of your Maximum Leader’s life be made, he would like to be played by Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry is a great actor and all around fine human being. And in the end all we can hope to be is a fine human being. You can check out Stephen Fry’s website here; or follow him on Twitter here.

4. Preferred pizza crust — Thin? Pan? Whole wheat? Other?

Generally speaking, thin. But from time to time he craves a good Chicago style pizza. Not too often. But it has been known to happen.

5. Is there a song that makes you hit the channel change/shuffle button as soon as it starts? What is it?

Almost anything my 9 year old son has purchased in the past 6 months.

6. What’s your favorite “guilty pleasure” movie?

Very tough. Recently it has been Disney’s John Carter. But over time it has been Bruce Campbell’s Army of Darkness.

7. Bluegrass or World Music?

Bluegrass.

8. What’s the most unusual thing in your fridge?

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t think that he has anything particularly unusual in his fridge. He keeps the fridge pretty clean and goes through victuals regularly. If by unusual you might mean something “out of the ordinary” then it might be a stash of the greatest candy bar in the world… The Cadbury Crunchie bar. (Buy them here.)

9. What have I got in my pocket?

Front or back pocket? Hummm….

As for me… The contents of my pockets on a typical day (such as today) are: iPhone, handkerchief, wallet (from the Scuola del Cuoio as it turns out - a lovely and thoughtful gift), my car key, and a key ring (containing home and work keys).

As an aside… The key ring on which your Maximum Leader’s home & work keys hang has a brass oval fob that reads “10 Downing Street, London”. He has had that key fob since he bought it in London on his first trip there in 1985. Also… In his wallet he still has a folded up One Pound note from that same trip to the UK in 1985. So… For 29 years, your Maximum Leader has carried a One Pound note in his wallet…

10. What topic is most likely to make you start talking as your friends say, “Now you’ve done it.”?

Probably something about Elvis or Winston Churchill. Or possibly curing bacon…

11. What question were you hoping I’d ask you, but I didn’t?

In the tradition of “Pulp Fiction,” are you a Beatles man or an Elvis man? Your Maximum Leader is, very much, an Elvis man… Indeed his iTunes library shows 745 Elvis songs and 167 Beatles songs.

Now comes the nomination portion of our program…

Your Maximum Leader will nominate the following blogs:

His buddy Kevin.

Bill of Bill’s Comments.

Robbo of TPSAYE

Elisson

Big Stupid Tommy

FLG of Fear & Loathing in Georgetown

Skippy

Mrs P

Joan of Primordial Slack

The Amazing Ben of Badass of the Week

Eric of Straight White Guy

And here are the questions from your Maximum Leader:

1) What food do you most resemble - physically?

2) Assume that everyone has an ability that they could call their “superpower” what would yours be?

3) What is the earliest memory you have?

4) A good day would be…

5) A bad day would be…

6) Cameras on every single portable electronic device. Blessing or bane?

7) Favorite Pixar character? Why?

8 ) Tell me about one deeply held belief of yours that has evolved or changed over time.

9) Your favorite word?

10) If I met you at a dinner party, what would you NOT like me to ask you?

11) Tell me something I don’t know.

Question #9 is courtesy of Bernard Pivot and James Lipton.

Questions #10 & #11 are courtesy of one of your Maximum Leader’s favorite podcasts, The Dinner Party Download.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Tweety: @maximumleader

King Rodrigo’s Big Day

King Rodrigo looked upon his mighty host. His knights glinted in the sun. His peasant levies & archers stood in ordered rows. They had new shields, new polearms and pikes.

The king gazed across the field. King Ferdinand’s knight’s armor looked dull and tried. No colorful pennants snapped in the breeze. Ferdinand’s levies stood together in loose bands and looked dirty.

Years of peace in Rodrigo’s demesne allowed him to stockpile arms, supplies and money. Ferdinand fought many wars over the years. It was time to dispatch Ferdinand.

Bloody battle ensued.

William Paul’s Brother & Stuff

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader needed to write something to move his Easter piece down some. Certainly observant Catholics and Orthodox adherents will know that we are still in the Easter season; but it is time for this small corner of the interwebs to move along.

So, Mrs. Villain wanted to do something fun for Mother’s Day. We decided the fun thing to do would be to go to Annapolis, MD for the day. Your Maximum Leader put his usual avoidance of the whole state of Maryland on hold for the day and went with the family. Indeed, it was a wonderful day all in all. The weather was bright and wonderful. The city is always pretty, and was so during our visit. It was crowded, but that is to be expected.

We didn’t have much of a plan in going. But we did have a few things that Mrs. Villain said she wanted to do. She wanted to visit the US Naval Academy and (on your Maximum Leader’s suggestion) see the gardens at the William Paca house*. We did just that. Your Maximum Leader and Mrs Villain hadn’t been to Annapolis in about 15 years. Indeed, during our last visit we also walked around the grounds of the Naval Academy. Proof of this is that we have a photo of a year old Villainette #1 sitting in a flower bed near the Herndon monument. Your Maximum Leader recalls how (a pregnant) Mrs Villain carried the little Villainette into the flower bed, propped her up and stepped out of the flower bed to take the photo. He also recalls some Midshipmen looking on horror as this happened. Your Maximum Leader generally isn’t much for putting babies in well-groomed flower beds at military facilities as a matter of course. But then again, your Maximum Leader is generally in favor of letting a pregnant woman do what she wants to do within reason. And staging a photo in a flower bed didn’t seem at the time to be too unreasonable.

Anyhoo…

We took the guided tour of the Naval Academy. Our tour guide was very pleasant, but he spoke both rapidly and quietly. If your Maximum Leader were to guess, he would say that our guide was originally from Maine as well. The combination of a quick-talking, hushed-toned New Englander and a large group made it hard for us to hear all he said. Indeed, your Maximum Leader and the Wee Villain made it a point to get close and listen. Mrs Villain and the Villainettes stood near the back of the group and later complained that they only heard about 15% of what was said (and the Villainettes said they understood only about 75% of what they did hear). (NB: Apparently our New Englander relatives aren’t accented enough for the Villainettes to have “picked up” listening to and understanding the accent.)

The Naval Academy tour ends with visiting the tomb of John Paul Jones. During the tour John Paul Jones (along with other naval luminaries) was mentioned quite a bit. During the discussions of Paul Jones, your Maximum Leader had a nagging feeling in his brain that there was some sort of “connection” between Paul Jones and himself. Not an ancestral connection; but another sort of connection.

Eventually (after arriving back at the Villainschloss), your Maximum Leader went onto Wikipaedia and looked up John Paul Jones. There was the connection! John Paul Jones, before joining the fledgling Continental (soon-to-be United States) Navy, was a frequent visitor of his older brother, William Paul. William Paul was a tailor in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Your Maximum Leader lives in Fredericksburg, VA and remembered seeing the grave of William Paul in the burying ground of St. George’s Episcopal Church. He also seemed to remember that he’d once seen a historical marker on a house in town that indicated that the house was William Paul’s house.

Thus started your Maximum Leader’s little “John Paul Jones” kick. Your Maximum Leader walked by St George’s and saw William Paul’s grave (embellished as it is now by “admirers” of his younger brother). He also walked on down to 501 Caroline Street in Fredericksburg and saw the plaque indicating that the house was that of William Paul and was where John Paul Jones stayed during his frequent visits to Fredericksburg.

Then your Maximum Leader decided he needed to know more about our nation’s first great naval hero, so he logged onto The Facebook and tried to bug our friend Robbo to see if he could recommend a biography of Paul Jones. Ultimately, your Maximum Leader went with “John Paul Jones: A Sailor’s Biography” by Samuel Eliot Morison. Your Maximum Leader is a fan of Morison and figured that this Pulitzer winning biography couldn’t be bad. Indeed, it is not disappointing your Maximum Leader. He is about a third of the way through and enjoying it very much.

So, there you have it. Your Maximum Leader’s (tenuous) connection to John Paul Jones.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader would have liked to have had the money when the William Paul house was last on the market. It was purchased for $150,000 a few years back. It is currently undergoing some restoration. Although he isn’t sure that he would want to own a nearly 300 year old house, it would have been cool and had some story value…)

Moving along to the other “stuff” mentioned in the header of this post…

Well… There isn’t much other stuff that your Maximum Leader is inclined to blog about. The day is beautiful and he might take his book and read outside for a little while. Thanks to the many inches of rain that has fallen upon this area in the past few weeks, the pollen isn’t as bad as it could be. On the other hand, the Villainschloss lawn has gone to seed. Literally, the grass has grown tall enough to go to seed. This is because your Maximum Leader’s lawn mower is in the shop and awaiting new blades. The old blades haven given up the ghost after 11 years of useful service. Thankfully, replacing the blades is all that was needed since the Honda engine is going strong and will likely give another 11 years of useful service.

Perhaps there is another post loitering around in your Maximum Leader’s brain that he will let fall out into the ether…

Until then…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

* - By the way, the gardens at the William Paca House were past their prime. One imagines that in a few weeks they will be bouncing back with some more flowering plants. Apparently we visited during the in-between time…

Triduum

The Resurrection of Christ by Rembrandt Van Rijin

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is writing on his blog on a Saturday afternoon. Holy Saturday as a matter of fact. What are the odds of that happening? He would have said very low until he actually started writing… Here is a Holy Triduum brain dump.

So today is the final day of the Holy Triduum. Your Maximum Leader has been (so far) and will continue (barring the unexpected) to celebrate the Holy Triduum. He attended Mass on Holy Thursday (the Feast of the Last Supper) and Good Friday (The Passion of Our Lord). He plans on going to the Easter Vigil Mass tonight (The Resurrection of Our Lord).

Given that your Maximum Leader has pretty much failed at all that he resolved to do this Lenten season; he has been acutely aware of what has been going on during the Triduum. It is as though he feels that by being EXTRA good these three days he’ll somehow make up for being a lazy arse for all of Lent. But by being conscious and aware in the moment during the previous two days has lead him to make two observations. The first is that he is profoundly discomforted at both the Holy Thursday and Good Friday Masses. The second is that he does truly love the Easter Vigil Mass.

Allow your Maximum Leader to expand on the first point. The discomfort that your Maximum Leader has during the Holy Thursday mass is twofold and in both instances relates to the extraordinary event of that Mass. The event is, of course, the washing of feet by the priest. The first bit of discomfort is just your Maximum Leader having a thing about people touching his feet. He doesn’t care for it at all. He doesn’t want his feet to be touched. In the same way that he really dislikes massages, he dislikes touching of the feet. So to watch someone wash the feet of someone else sorta puts your Maximum Leader off a little bit.

Then there is the fact that the priest is washing the feet of a parishioner/someone. Your Maximum Leader understands why this happens and the theology behind it; but perhaps your Maximum Leader identifies with Peter a little too much when Peter protests having his feet washed (John 13: 8-11). Your Maximum Leader knows that this service of the priest is symbolic of the larger call to service; but it is discomforting. Your Maximum Leader believes that he would likely decline an offer to have his priest, bishop or even the Pope himself wash his feet. It would be too much for your Maximum Leader - given his feet hangup among other items.

The discomfort your Maximum Leader feels on Good Friday comes from the reading of the Passion according to Saint John. For those of you unfamiliar with the practice, on Good Friday the Passion according to Saint John is read by the priest officiant and others. Basically the Chapters 18 and 19 of the Gospel of Saint John are read in their entirety. The priest officiant reads the part of Jesus. Another person reads the “narrative” and a third (and possibly others) read all of the other spoken lines. In some cases the assembled congregation reads the lines of the “crowd.”

Since he was young this has been a difficult Mass. To have John read aloud is a very different experience than to read it to oneself. To have different voices reading aloud is more moving. At your Maximum Leader’s parish, the Passion is sung - which seems to unsettle your Maximum Leader even more. At some level your Maximum Leader’s modern sensibilities are what are disrupted by the account of the Passion. He is offended by the betrayal of Judas for money. Selling out someone for money really offends your Maximum Leader. Then the legal railroading of Jesus by the High Priest. Your Maximum Leader has something of a legalist mindset himself and to use the law to an unjust end offends him as well. (NB: Your Maximum Leader understands that “the law” in almost any context is not the same as “justice.” That will have to be a discussion for another time…) Then there is the whole interaction with Pilate. Of all of the parts of the Passion this one affects your Maximum Leader the most. Of all the actors in this story the one your Maximum Leader identifies with the most is Pontius Pilate. He couldn’t tell you why, but he does. Pilate tries and tries to do the “right” thing; but is blocked at every maneuver from doing what he wants to do. He tries to get the crowd to ask for Jesus’ release; but the Sanhedrin has control of the crowd. He tries to get Jesus to say something incriminating in order that Jesus’ execution would be more justified. But Jesus doesn’t give him any room to move. He is cornered. What makes this passage all the more emotional for your Maximum Leader is the knowledge that the Romans (by the by) were not averse to executing people to begin with. The list of capital offenses was long. The Romans liked to keep order and strict enforcement of the law (and required executions) was good for Roman rule - particularly in a difficult province like Judea. So the actions of Pontius Pilate seem so extraordinary as to be disturbing. It is hard for your Maximum Leader to wrap his brain around the idea that a Roman Governor would actively try to NOT execute someone that the locals WANTED to be executed (and thus keep peace and order) unless the Roman Governor was absolutely positive that the person was undeserving of execution. Pilate is a sad figure to your Maximum Leader. He imagines Pilate as a world-weary man who is looking to keep the peace in a hostile environment. From what little your Maximum Leader knows of Pontius Pilate outside of the context of the Bible only reinforces your Maximum Leader’s opinion that Pilate was forced into the execution of Jesus. Your Maximum Leader has a great deal of empathy towards Pilate in the Gospel of John. The empathy is rooted in a feeling that Pilate himself felt trapped and was left with no recourse but what he did.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader, while he is expressing sympathy for Pontius Pilate will go a little further and say that he has always wondered why Pilate’s name remains in the Nicene Creed. Is it REALLY so important that the authority underwhich Jesus was crucified be recalled so permanently?)

Between Pilate asking rhetorically “What is truth?” and the washing of his hands; your Maximum Leader gets pretty worked up about the Passion.

Then there is the very language of the Gospel that discomforts your Maximum Leader… The language of two words: The Jews. The Jews cried out. The Jews wanted Barabbas. The Jews wanted Jesus dead. The Jews did it all. Your Maximum Leader is not an anti-Semitic guy. If anything your Maximum Leader is a pro-Semitic guy. So the language of the Gospel of John makes your Maximum Leader’s skin crawl. He ponders the persecution of the Jewish people throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. He thinks of the Inquisition. He thinks of the Holocaust. All because of John repeated “The Jews” over and over again. For what it is worth, your Maximum Leader asks for forgiveness every Good Friday for all the anti-Semitic things ever done that were inspired by John’s Gospel.

So, there is now, in the rear-view, Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Today there is the Easter Vigil.

Now many of your Maximum Leader’s fellow Catholics don’t like the Easter Vigil. It is too long according to most. He supposes that Catholics are conditioned to be done with Mass in about an hour. When it goes over an hour we must get fidgety. So, there are many Catholics that avoid the Easter Vigil Mass. Afterall, the Easter Vigil Mass has nine (9) readings, with singing from the Psalms between most. That adds time right there. Then add in that you will get baptisms and confirmations done too… In most parishes you are looking at 2 hrs minimum.

All that being said, the Easter Vigil Mass is your Maximum Leader’s absolute favorite Mass of the year. He’d never been to one until a few years back. After going to one he wondered why he’d never gone before. For all of the discomfort and angst that your Maximum Leader feels during the first two days of the Triduum; he really does feel good during the Easter Vigil. Everything good in the liturgical practice of the Catholic Church (and for that matter many of the Orthodox Churches) is present in this one service. It is uplifting and it does renew your Maximum Leader’s faith (such as it is…)

So there it is… A brain dump on the Holy Triduum…

Not normal fare exactly for this blog - as if there is a normal fare any more for this blog…

But there it is…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Doggie inspired sadness

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is taking a brief break from his annual “rendering unto Ceasar” day of joy. During the break he went out and threw a ball for the dogs.

Yes. Dogs.

Your Maximum Leader can’t recall if he mentioned that he now has a second dog. His first dog, Maia, is 13 years old. The new dog, Bella, is about 10 months old. The circumstances of Bella’s arrival were not fortuitous. Mrs Villain announced, on the Sunday before Christmas, that she was adopting Bella and didn’t much care what your Maximum Leader had to say about it. She was then a surprised and upset when your Maximum Leader didn’t warm up to Bella and was giving Mrs Villain the cold-shoulder too. Anyway, that is past and Bella is, slowly, growing on your Maximum Leader.

Being a young’n, Bella has piles of energy and wants to play.

Being an old’n, Maia has some energy and occasionally likes to walk around slowly and sniff things.

While Bella has “livened” up Maia somewhat, Maia is still old. Maia has growing cataracts. She is arthritic. And Maia has been a little OCD for years. (NB: Not “a little OCD” in all honesty. She is very OCD. Do the point that we’ve had her on “downers” for about 5 years.)

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader was taking a break to toss a ball for the dogs to run around a little. Bella likes to run and retrieve and bound over things. Maia wants to run, but sadly cannot. When your Maximum Leader throws the ball, both dogs start towards the ball. Bella runs, accelerates and jumps. Maia takes a few steps. Then stops. Then turns and looks at your Maximum Leader with an expression that says, “I’d like to run; but it is too much.”

Sadly, this bad arthritis in Maia is probably going to be the end of her. She has trouble with stairs (so much so that we walk her around the Villainschloss outside to avoid them). She often has trouble getting up. Some nights she starts to move around and we hear her groaning as she stretches. Her time is coming. Coming quickly I fear. It is going to be very sad when it happens.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

Is this a post I see before me?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader makes two posts in two days. Think of it. It is like we are back to the halcyon days of 2004 or something…

Okay. That was a big buildup for very little payout. Your Maximum Leader apologizes in advance. (If anyone out there is reading this…)

So, your Maximum Leader forgot to note the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Hobbes last weekend. The man labeled on the right side link bar of this site as “Our Philosopher” would have turned 426 on April 5. Your Maximum Leader has not, until the very moment that he typed these words, bothered to think about the accuracy of the birthday given that it was prior to the New Style Act of 1750. Regardless… April 5th it shall be for your Maximum Leader.

Speaking of ole Thomas Hobbes… Your Maximum Leader has begun over the past years to feel he is getting more stupid. He is forgetting things he used to know. What is worse, he has a lingering knowledge that he USED to know something that he’s now unable to recall. Contemplating Hobbes’ birthday reminded your Maximum Leader that other than the “common” things that any student of history and government would recall; he’s forgotten much of the detail he used to know about Hobbes’ works. This could likely be remedied by a re-reading of Leviathan and other works. But there is some inertia or laziness that keeps him from getting motivated to do so…

This inertia has also manifested itself in your Maximum Leader’s Lenten observances. Your Maximum Leader has tried not to make a big deal of it, but he’s been doing much better at being an observant Catholic over the past years. Without trying to sound hypocritical, he’s been very outwardly observant. But there is a lot to be desired in his inner spiritual life. This Lent has been one of disappointment. Unlike many Catholics, your Maximum Leader doesn’t try to “give up” something for Lent; but rather (and the suggestion of a priest many many years ago) “DO” something that will improve and grow your faith and well-being. This year your Maximum Leader resolved to read & contemplate some of the writings of his name saint, Augustine of Hippo. The plan was to read from Augustine’s writings, then take a nice long walk to contemplate what he’d just read. Well, how many times has that pairing happened? Exactly zero times. He’s walked. He’s read (though very lightly). But the pairing has not occurred. This is a Lenten resolution that will likely have to outlive Lent in order to give your Maximum Leader a feeling of accomplishing something.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader is exceedingly pleased at how his Washington Nationals are performing out of the starting blocks of this 2014 baseball season. They have done well against the Mets and Marlins. They took 1 of 3 against the Braves with another series against the Braves (in Atlanta) coming up. He hopes they continue to be strong and get a nice cushion of wins under their proverbial belts before the middle of the season. These early wins are very valuable over 162 games.

If your Maximum Leader can find the motivation and time, he hopes to write a short essay on independence movements in Europe. It is something he’s been thinking about off and on with all the news out of Scotland, Catalonia, Venice and Ukraine…

That is all for now…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

100 Below - An Ancient Mystery Solved

Here is a 100 Below story for your reading pleasure. Inspired by recent interweb stories.

“A cup is missing.”

“What master?”

“We’re short one cup in the cabinet. Why?”

“Remember those guys in the upper room? When they left, I cleaned up the room and there was one guy there. He took a cup with him. A few days later he came back with the cup. It had dried blood on it. So I broke it and threw it into the trash pile. I’m sorry if I did wrong.”

“No,” the master said. “If it touched blood it was unclean. I’ll get another. It’s a pity it’ll not match.”

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