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Lighten up bay-bee.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader got an e-mail from reader the jist of which was “I don’t live in Virginia. I don’t care about George Allen. I don’t care if he is a racist. Move on.” Now, one thing before your Maximum Leader moves on… While your Maximum Leader is not going to make any claims or represenations about anyone, he does think that one probably doesn’t want a true racist sitting in the US Senate. So perhaps people should care.

But hey… It is time to lighten up…

And what better to put one in a lighter mood than… the dreamy Jennifer Love Hewitt.

For all of you out there find this site looking for search terms like “jennifer love hewitt naked” and “jennifer love hewitt nude” and “jennifer love hewitt cow” and “jennifer love hewitt playboy” (and your Maximum Leader knows there are lots of you) he presents the dreamy Miss Hewitt in her “music video” entitled “Barenaked.” That means that this is the title track of the dreamy Jennifer Love Hewitt’s album “Barenaked.” In the song, the dreamy Jennifer Love Hewitt is “bare naked” and “just can’t take it.”

Your Maximum Leader can take it… Just not in Playboy.

Humm… Does this count as being “art?” Your Maximum Leader wonders if videos count as an art form? Perhaps he should consult the RCBA…

Carry on.

T.O.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader saw the stories.

First he tried to kill himself… Then he was just “out of it” and his publicist called 9-1-1. Then… Well who knows what is going on?

Admit it…

Just a moment after reading the first headlines you were shocked.

A moment after that you were having a weird Richard Cory moment.

Then you shook your head and sort of wished he did it.

Admit it… You sorta did.

Carry on.

Smallholder weighs in… Almost

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader and his loyal friend the Minister of Agriculture (yes… The Smallholder for those of you who aren’t reading carefully) have been exchanging brief e-mails on the subject of George Allen and the Virginia Senate race.

Normally, your Maximum Leader would allow the Smallholder to speak (blog) for himself in these matters. Of course, normally your Maximum Leader would take it upon himself to ruthlessly mock Smallholder for no good reason.

After reading and ruminating on some of Smallholder’s missives, your Maximum Leader thought he would share some of his thoughts with you all.

To set up the background, your Maximum Leader was pretty sure that his recent posts (and frankly, Skippy’s post) about George Allen would elicit a response. Well.. They did and they didn’t. They did elicit a response, but they did not elicit a post. The Smallholder claims that he wanted to blog, but that teaching and life on the farm just take up too much of his time. Your Maximum Leader responded that the Smallholder takes his job too seriously and frankly those kids are hopless by the time they get to his class - so blog a little and lighten up. (Your Maximum Leader can’t have the Smallholder give up on the farm. Afterall, your Maximum Leader is paying for quality cows and pigs…) Regrettably, Smallholder believes that he can still make a difference in the lives of his students…

In response to a glib comment in a private e-mail from your Maximum Leader the Smallholder wrote:

I was originally going to respond to neither of you [NB: The Maximum Leader and Skippy] but to call bullshit on Allen not using the n-bomb at UVA in the 1970s. I talked to two coaches here who say that is was endemic.
Allen ought to have said that he used it, it was wrong, and he, like the rest of Virginia, had put the racist past behind him. Instead he lied. I think the
evidence of his racism is starting to mount. And his unrepentence is telling
as well.

There isn’t much to say about tis. Your Maximum Leader knows plenty of people who attended UVA in the late 1960s and into the 1970s. They all pretty much confirm what Smallholder is saying here. The widespread use of the n-word was a fact of life at UVA during that period. Indeed, your Maximum Leader agrees that all signs point to Allen using the n-word at UVA while he was a student there.

On the matter of his unrepentance, well. There is a lot you can say about that. Indeed, your Maximum Leader will say some things about this subject. First off, a tried and true tactic in modern American politics is that one is confronted with an upleasant truth that to continually deny the accusation works for a while. Your Maximum Leader will point to none other than the vast Right-Wing Conspiracy’s favourite whipping-boy, Bill Clinton. Gennifer Flowers. Nope, didn’t sleep with her. Paula What’s-her-name? Never heard of her. Juanita Brodderick? Couldn’t pick her out of a line-up… Monica Lewinsky. “That woman… Miss Lewinsky…” You see the point your Maximum Leader is making here. Deny. Deny. Deny. Then when you are found out, deny some more.

Now, you will say, “But, my great and thoughtful Maximum Leader, Bill Clinton did those things his was accused of doing. We found out, even after he denied them.” That is true. But by the time the confession came around people were tired of the story. Nuance had been introduced. The damage had been mitigated.

For every one person who comes out and says “I know George Allen used the n-word in college.” there is someone else who says “I know George Allen never used the n-word in college.” It is the ultimate “he said, he said” game.

Now, one should also view this from a slightly different perspective. If you are George Allen, and the only news about your campaign that makes the news is how you are a closeted racist who is only now being outed; you need to draw a line somewhere and fight. Bill Clinton may bounce back from bimbo eruptions; but very few bounce back from being successfully labled a racist. (In fact, sitting here your Maximum Leader can’t think of one politician in the modern age who has. Okay one. George Wallace. But that is a pretty slim list…)

Perhaps if the whole “macaca” story hadn’t happened, George Allen could have said something like the Smallholder suggested above. But, that is not Allen’s current situation. Being branded a racist (even if you aren’t one) is very much different than being branded an adulterer. Suburban middle-class whites like to think themselves above conventional religious morality when it comes to sex; but they can’t abide someone they think is a racist. Don’t get your Maximum Leader wrong, he’s not for electing racists; but neither is he for electing adulterers.* Being successfully branded a racist is the effective end of someone’s political career.

At this point your Maximum Leader supposes he should say that he is now having some serious reservations about George Allen. Please trust your Maximum Leader when he notes that those are difficult words to type. He’s supported Allen for a long long time. On the one hand he thinks that George Allen has made many enemies in his political career and now Allen’s opponents have jumped on a stupid gaffe and exploited it. On the other hand, is there fire where there is smoke? Macaca. A history of supporting those who support an untenable view of the Civil War. Trouping the Confederate flag. The n-word. That is a pretty considerable amount of smoke in just a few weeks. Weeks your Maximum Leader is sure that George Allen and all his political advisors would agree have been the worst in his political career.

So, what now? Well… Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure. As much as the Minister of Propaganda (out in California one might add) is lobbying for your Maximum Leader to vote for James Webb, he just can’t vote for Webb. Webb is a hot-headed opportunist. He isn’t really a Democrat (a trait that should endear him to your Maximum Leader). He isn’t a Republican. Webb is a sort of Populist xtremist. Webb has many opinions on a range of issues. Webb can’t really be labled as “liberal” or “conservative.” But he takes lots of extreme positions all over the board.

As your Maximum Leader sat down and started this post, he toyed with the idea of not voting at all. But that thought passed in about 2 seconds. Your Maximum Leader hasn’t missed an opportunity to vote in a Federal Election since he attained his franchise. He isn’t going to start missing them now. (And for full disclosure, he has only missed one state/local election - and that was because he had recently moved and his voter registration in one county was disallowed in another.)

Honestly… Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure what he will do when he goes to the polls in November. At least he isn’t sure about the Senate race. He’ll have to see how things pan out.

Oh yes… One more thing… Smallholder also wrote:

Now that I’ve read your post, I’m going to call bullshit on your statement about the Confedrate flag. You cannot honorably defend it. Even if you are loosely educated, the controversy means that the information is out there. Their only response is nuh-uh. And even if you don’t believe it is racist, then you are prick for flying it knowing that people will perceive it as such.

Your Maximum Leader concurs with what the Smallholder wrote there. But your Maximum Leader wasn’t trying to defend the loosely educated or state that their defence of the Confederate flag was an honorable one. His point is that some otherwise sensible people have blinders on when it comes to the symbolism of the Confederate flag and the causes of the American Civil War. No degree of evidence will convince them otherwise. This glaring failure to accept the facts as they are does not equate to that same person being a racist. One may say they are stupid, uneducated, or even pricks. But not every stupid, uneducated, prick is a racist. That is your Maximum Leader’s point.

Carry on.
(more…)

A tale of two interviews.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has now heard a whole day’s worth of commentary on Bill Clinton’s fit directed towards Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. Now after seeing the interview that is in the news, and listening (but not watching - podcast afterall) to President Clinton’s interview with Tim Russert on Meet The Press; you Maximum Leader will give you all a little dose of his thoughts on this.

You see… The Russert interview is the type of interview the Former President wants, nay expects. The Wallace interview, well.. It should suffice to say that President Clinton doesn’t like that type of interview at all.

The Russert interview of Meet The Press was lackluster. In fact, your Maximum Leader will just go ahead and assert a few things about Tim Russert and Meet The Press. First off, Russert is a pretty good interviewer and a generally astute person. Secondly, your Maximum Leader almost always likes Russert - even when he is trying to lay the wood to someone of whom your Maximum Leader thinks highly. Thirdly, Russert always seems to lose it when the interviewee is The President of the United States of America. When your Maximum Leader says ‘lose it’ he means that Russert doesn’t ask the hard questions. Russert becomes a polite but not obsequious interviewer. Your Maximum Leader believes that this is because Tim Russert is one of the few American Journalists who actually respects The Office. Yes. Tim Russert respects the dignity of the Office of the The President of the United States of America. And to respect the dignity of the Office means that you must respect the dignity of the Officeholder. You know something readers… Your Maximum Leader, were he to meet Bill Clinton, even now that he is no longer President; he would likely be pretty respectful. Regardless of what your Maximum Leader might write here or say privately, Bill Clinton is entitled to a bit of deference in person. He was afterall the President of the United States of America. Lastly… Russert should never be allowed to interview a President of the US of A.

So… Russert lobs softballs to Clinton on Meet The Press. (Frankly, your Maximum Leader thought that Russert lobbed softballs at Bush hen they spoke a few years ago…) Russert serves up the slow pitches, and Clinton - raspy voice and all - knocks ‘em out of the park.

So… When Clinton goes to talk to Chris Wallace, Mr Clinton expects softballs. Mr. Clinton, instead, gets a hardball. Why didn’t you, Mr. President, kill Osama Bin-Laden when you had the chance?

We all have seen what ensued. Clinton jabbing the finger. Clinton’s eyes bulging. Clinton loosing his cool. It wasn’t pretty. Bill Clinton’s emotions got the better of him. They have before. We all know that. We’ve heard the stories. But we rarely get to see the real thing. We certainly did on Sunday (or Monday - if you just wanted to see the reporting on it).

Your Maximum Leader had planned on making a lengthly analysis of where Clinton was wrong on his record. But, the earlier bird catches the worm. And Skippy was the early bird - this story was the worm. Frankly, your Maximum Leader isn’t sure why you are reading this when you should be reading Skippy’s take on this. Your Maximum Leader pretty much agrees with Skippy down the line.

What we saw on Sunday was Bill Clinton not liking the feel of the cold hand of history on his story. Bill Clinton acted as he thought the situation needed at the time. In retrospect, that reaction (an overly legalistic one) was a bad move. There is nothing Bill Clinton can do now but wait to see how he’s written up as history moves his administration further back in time.

Carry on.

Whereupon we address Skippy.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that his friend and Loyal Minion Skippy asks a serious question. Since your Maximum Leader’s post of last week prompted the question, he feels he should do something to answer it.

Here is what Skippy wrote at the end o a typically brilliant post:

Anyhow, the Maximum Leader made this statement.

“Yes, there is the whole Confederate Flag issue in Allen’s past. But honestly, your Maximum Leader knows plenty (and he means PLENTY) of people who he can honestly say are not racists at all and honestly and sincerely believe that the Confederate Flag is a symbol of a noble and honorable cause for which their ancestors gave their lives.”

My question - and I’m dead serious in asking it - “Is that possible?” The Confederacy stood for something that is historically irrefutable, specifically that you can actually own other human beings, exploit their labour and build a society on it. It really is that specific. Is that really something to honor? And if you’re seeking to represent three hundred million Americans, of every of every imaginable hue, is it something you should say that you’re proud of?

Humm… Allow your Maximum Leader to answer these questions posed by our friend Skippy one at a time… Is it possible to find people who are not racists and who believe the Confederate Flag is a worthy symbol? Yes. Is it possible to honor a society built on human bondage? No. Is that something to say you’re proud of? No. But on those last two your Maximum Leader will equivocate for a moment.

First off… Before this gets to be some heated exchanged allow your Maximum Leader to say a few things. First, although your Maximum Leader was born in the South and considers himself a “Southerner” he has never really understood the whole “Civil War Thing.” Perhaps this is because his parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents were either Northerners or hadn’t yet immigrated to this reat country at the time of the Civil War. Or perhaps it is that your Maximum Leader grew to understand the true nature of the war. Your Maximum Leader has never called it “the War of Northern Aggression.” In fact your Maximum Leader’s favorite description of the Civil War comes from the official history of the war published by the United States War Department. That history is called the “History of the War of the Rebellion.” Your Maximum Leader has gotten himself into a pickle from time to time by presuming to try to explain to some of his neighbors how the real shocking thing about the American Civil War is that it lasted as long as it did. The war was a testament to the incompetence of Union Generals and the luck of many Rebel ones. But once the Union figured it out (and it was only a matter of time before it did) the Confederacy had no chance. No. Chance. What. So. Ever.

But your Maximum Leader gets ahead of himself…

Anyhoo…

The problem that Skippy is having understanding the apparent paradox between people not being racists and still believing the Confederate Flag represents a noble cause is a common one among educated people. You see, people (like Skippy, and the Smallholder - who must deal with this on a more regular basis as a teacher than does your Maximum Leader) who know that the real cause of the American Civil War was slavery don’t understand how someone else can say otherwise. But, unfortunately, there are people who Churchill might have called “loosely educated” who are particularly vocal when it comes to the Confederate Flag.

These “loosely educated” people are the ones who honestly and truly (and passionately one might add) believe that the American Civil War was not faught over the issue of slavery but over the issue of “states rights.” Of course, what these people fail to realize is that slavery was the reason behind all of the “states rights” arguments.

Don’t get your Maximum Leader wrong here. Your Maximum Leader is all for state government and the separation of Federal and State powers. He is all for a “limited” Federal Government. In the Reagan years this was called “New Federalism.” This is to say that the role of the Federal Government in a normal person’s life should be small, but the States might have more power to intrude on your lives. (Pretty much what the Founders more or less had in mind.)

But because of the lead-up to the American Civil War the very term “states rights” has become code for “keeping the black man down.” The term is fairly toxic. Frankly that is with good reason. The only time “states rights” gets any air time at all is when John C Calhoun, George Wallace (first term), Pettus, and all the others were using it to preserve either slavery or legally instituted separation based on skin color.

Of course, these historical facts do not concern the loosely educated people. To them the term “states rights” has taken on the magical meaning of “keeping The Man off my back.” You see, to the loosely educated, the Civil War wasn’t about slavery. It was all about “fighting The Man” and being able to do what you want and how you want to do it. It doesn’t matter what the real causes were… It only matters what you think the causes were.

It is a source of constant disappointment to your Maximum Leader (who fancies himself a pretty thoughtful conservative type) that many leaders of the Republican party have piggy-backed a more modern conception of “New Federalism” onto the negatively charged term of “states rights.” He sees it all over the South.

Well-meaning, if not fully well-educated, (predominately) Republican activists go out and say something to the effect of “Conservative Republicans want to return power to the states, just like your great- great- grand-daddy did when he faught for Bobby Lee during the War of Northern Aggression.” It makes your Maximum Leader’s skin crawl. Regardless of how it makes your Maximum Leader’s skin feel, it happens.

So… Back to Skippy’s question. Yes. Yes, in point of fact your Maximum Leader can rattle of for you (but will not) a number of people who your Maximum Leader would vouch for as not being racists; but still believing that the Confederate Flag represents a noble cause worth dying for. When you look at it (wrongly) as these people do, you find that you are making a wrong set of assumptions. It is not that these people are holding up the nobility of owning slaves, they think they are upholding a legitimate political point that in their minds boils down to supporting self-determination. As completely wrong headed as this is, it is still what they believe.

As for George Allen and all this… Your Maximum Leader has met Senator Allen a number of times. He can’t claim to be a friend of the Senator. But he knows a number of people who know Allen personally and others who have worked for him. Your Maximum Leader is confident that all of them would agree that George Allen is not a racist who’s true nature is just being revealed. George Allen was likely one of those who honestly believed that the “Lost Cause” of the Confederacy was “states rights” and not slavery. He’s just had to learn the hard way what the truth of the matter is.

As for having a noose in his office… Well… Your Maximum Leader thinks that is more in line with his “kick their soft teeth down their whiney throats” line of partisanship than his any secret support of lynching.

All in all your Maximum Leader is thinking one thing about George Allen. He may win re-election here in Virginia; but his national aspirations are pretty much a non-starter.

Carry on.

From the way back machine…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that so many of his favourite bloggers are putting music videos from You Tube up on their sites. Your Maximum Leader figures this is a trend he feels okay going with. If you read the same sites that your Maximum Leader does you’d have recently seen some a-Ha, Squeeze, and Everclear… But your Maximum Leader want to go both older and foreign on you. The year is 1983 - the early days of the golden age of rock videos. MTV was new, and there was still a Friday Night Videos on every week (for those of you who didn’t have cable…).

Your Maximum Leader remembers seeing this video for the very first time over at Jenny Rosenthal’s house. He remembers being told, “Oh Mike. Watch this. This is the saddest thing ever.”

For your viewing pleasure…

Carry on.

My (Jewish) Senator

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader must admit that is his baffled. Completely baffled.

As long time readers know, insofar as his representation in the Federal Government goes, he’s a big fan of George Allen. (In case you didn’t know your Maximum Leader is represented by the following persons at the federal level of government: George W Bush - President, John Warner - Senator, George Allen - Senator, Jo Ann Davis - Congresswoman.) Your Maximum Leader has been a fan of George Allen when he was in Congress (not representing your Maximum Leader by the way). He was a fan of George Allen when he was Governor of Virginia. And he’s been a fan of George Allen in the Senate.

But over the past few weeks your Maximum Leader has been scratching his head and wondering about George Allen.

Okay… First there was the whole “macaca” thing. Your Maximum Leader has never thought that George Allen was a racist. Senator Allen does sometimes come off as a little bit of a redneck (when, in fact, hereally isn’t one); but not a racist. Yes, there is the whole Confederate Flag issue in Allen’s past. But honestly, your Maximum Leader knows plenty (and he means PLENTY) of people who he can honestly say are not racists at all and honestly and sincerely believe that the Confederate Flag is a symbol of a noble and honorable cause for which their ancestors gave their lives. Your Maximum Leader has been willing to give Allen the benefit of the doubt on that one. And he is willing to accept Allen’s apologies for the “macaca” comment. (Although Allen was not really apologizing to your Maximum Leader. Your Maximum Leader is a white man afterall.)

It is disappointing to your Maximum Leader that a politician as savvy and polished as Allen really is would say something so completely stupid about someone - someone who was holding a video camera and taping the comments for the benefit of Allen’s opponent no less - but, your Maximum Leader is willing to go with his past experience with Senator Allen and say that he isn’t a racist. He was just plain ole stupid. Stupid in a way that politicians can be sometimes. You know, politicians crave people liking (and voting) for them. Politicians like to say things that they think (rightly or wrongly) will endear them to an audience. You can see where this is going… Think Trent Lott at Strom Thurmond’s birthday party…

Anyhoo…

Now comes the revelation that Senator Allen’s mother is of Jewish ancestry.

First off… Who the hell cares? Much hay is being made about whether or not Allen knew about his Jewish Maternal Grandfather and Mother. Did Allen learn the word “macaca” from his mother. His mother who is a Francophone and we all know that “macaca” is a French slur… People are shocked that Allen wasn’t “curious” about his ancestry…

Great jeezey chreezey people. As my great friend Richard Couture used to say (quoting the great Thomas Perkins Abernathy), “I’d rather be a somebody at the end of a long line of nobodies; than a nobody at the end of a long line of somebodies.” It doesn’t shock your Maximum Leader to think that a man isn’t curious about his ancestry. Frankly, for as much as your Maximum Leader love history - geneology and those entranced by it bores the shit out of him. Insofar as your Maximum Leader knows he comes from a long line of Scots and Englishmen. There is likely a smattering of German and Irish in there too. Who knows maybe some French or Italian for all he knows. Hell… Your Maximum Leader might be decended from a Jew! He doesn’t know, and frankly he doesn’t care much. Family stories and history are interesting to him to two extents. The first being if your Maximum Leader knew his relative. The second being if his relative did something interesting.*

You know… George Allen’s father was a pro-football coach. A pretty good football coach too. If you are the son of a famous man you might not spend lots of time figuring out what your other relatives did. You might spend more time trying to figure out how to be more famous than dad…

All in all your Maximum Leader isn’t sure how a candidate’s mother, father, grandparents, or other ancestors really figure to be a topic of heated conversation. Your Maximum Leader has watched the film of the reporting asking Allen about his Jewish heritage and Allen getting defensive. If the question had been posed to your Maximum Leader in the way it was posed to Allen, he’d have gotten a little defensive too.

What is most distressing is that this is just another distraction keeping both George Allen and James Webb from discussing serious policy issues. While your Maximum Leader will not tell you that he will stay home and not vote (which isn’t in his nature); he will say that it is getting harder and harder to vote and feel good about what you are doing.

Carry on.
(more…)

Turn about…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader should file this brief post under the heading of “Turn about is fair play” or “Be wary before you celebrate a sub-.500 team’s victory.”

Tuesday’s victory (lauded in this space yesterday) is followed by bitter defeat on Wednesday.

In other Nationals news (sorry for the continued writing about a last-place-in-their-division-team for those of you who don’t care…), there are more rumours that Hall-of-Fame Player and current Nats manager Frank Robinson will not return as skipper next year. Your Maximum Leader happens to like Frank Robinson a lot. While it seems (from what is written) that Robinson might not be the greatest coach, it could be because today’s players are soft and coddled. Robinson is not a cute and cuddly type of guy. If the Nationals send Robinson packing, your Maximum Leader hopes that MLB (or perhaps the Baltimore Orioles) will give Robinson a front office job.

Carry on.

Nats Pound Braves

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader had the pleasure of being in attendance last night as his Washington Nationals Baseball Club “gave the business” to the Atlanta Braves. The final score was Nationals - 9, Braves - 2.

Your Maximum Leader would be a lying fool if he said that he didn’t feel a little pang of emotion at seeing the Braves get manhandled. Longtime readers know that untl the Nationals came to DC, your Maximum Leader was a Braves fan. But, with the witnessing of this victory, your Maximum Leader feels that his Braves days are behind him.

Now there is another baseball quandry confronting your Maximum Leader… That of baseball history. Yes, baseball history… Namely, do the Washington Nationals “assume” the historical stats and legacy of the old Washington Senators (of the American League) or do they “retain” the historical stats of the Montreal Expos (of the National League). The Washington Post has a nice peice on this subject which got your Maximum Leader to thinking about it at the game last night.

There doesn’t seem to be any consistent standard about who gets what records and legacy. Your Maximum Leader feels that, for the most part, records should be retained by the city that had the team, not the team if it relocates. He recognizes that Minnesota and Texas both lay claim to Washington’s baseball history (as both of those franchises were once the Washington Senators).

In the end there will likely be no firm answer to who gets to lay claim to whom or what. But it is an interesting debate nonetheless. But if they ask your Maximum Leader, he’d say to put the old Senator’s records in the books…

Carry on.

Thai Coup

Greetings,loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees on the news wires that the Thai military has launched a coup against Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The (now former?) Prime Minister is in New York at the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.

You have to like a coup where the military leaders issue a statement that begins: “The armed forces commander and the national police commander have successfully taken over Bangkok and the surrounding area in order to maintain peace and order. There has been no struggle.” And ends: “We ask for the cooperation of the public and ask your pardon for the inconvenience.”

“Pardon the inconvenience…” Nice touch. Your Maximum Leader will have to remember that during the early days of the Mike World Order. “Your Maximum Leader has taken charge to maintain peace and order. There have been minor disturbances due to the continued activity of firing squads. We ask for your peaceful cooperation and ask your pardon for any inconvenience you’ve experienced…”

In all seriousness, one hopes that if this is a full-blown coup that there has been no bloodshed. One would also hope that some settlement can be reached quickly that will restore an elected government.

Carry on.

Misunderstanding the threat

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was perusing his e-mail last night and found a link to an editorial from the LA Times. The author of the editorial is one Sam Harris. Mr Harris is the author of “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the future of Reason.” Your Maximum Leader’s never read that book, nor has he ever heard of Mr Harris. (NB to readers: shortly before posting this your Maximum Leader learned from another friend that this editorial was read - at least in part - yesterday on the Rush Limbaugh radio program. As your Maximum Leader doens’t listen to Limbaugh, that is news to him.)

Mr. Harris is a liberal. He says as much in his article. But he seems to have come to a number of conclusions about the nature of our odern world that are worth sharing. Here are some extended excerpts of Sam Harris’ LA Times Editorial of yesterday. (Here is the full link to the article.)

[But] my correspondence with liberals has convinced me that liberalism has grown dangerously out of touch with the realities of our world - specifically with what devout Muslims actually believe about the West, about paradise and about the ultimate ascendance of their faith.

On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right.

This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that “liberals are soft on terrorism.” It is, and they are.

A cult of death is forming in the Muslim world - for reasons that are perfectly explicable in terms of the Islamic doctrines of martyrdom and jihad. The truth is that we are not fighting a “war on terror.” We are fighting a pestilential theology and a longing for paradise.

This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims. But we are absolutely at war with those who believe that death in defense of the faith is the highest possible good, that cartoonists should be killed for caricaturing the prophet and that any Muslim who loses his faith should be butchered for apostasy.

Unfortunately, such religious extremism is not as fringe a phenomenon as we might hope. Numerous studies have found that the most radicalized Muslims tend to have better-than-average educations and economic opportunities.

Given the degree to which religious ideas are still sheltered from criticism in every society, it is actually possible for a person to have the economic and intellectual resources to build a nuclear bomb - and to believe that he will get 72 virgins in paradise. And yet, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism.

Such an astonishing eruption of masochistic unreason could well mark the decline of liberalism, if not the decline of Western civilization. There are books, films and conferences organized around this phantasmagoria, and they offer an unusually clear view of the debilitating dogma that lurks at the heart of liberalism: Western power is utterly malevolent, while the powerless people of the Earth can be counted on to embrace reason and tolerance, if only given sufficient economic opportunities.

I don’t know how many more engineers and architects need to blow themselves up, fly planes into buildings or saw the heads off of journalists before this fantasy will dissipate. The truth is that there is every reason to believe that a terrifying number of the world’s Muslims now view all political and moral questions in terms of their affiliation with Islam. This leads them to rally to the cause of other Muslims no matter how sociopathic their behavior. This benighted religious solidarity may be the greatest problem facing civilization and yet it is regularly misconstrued, ignored or obfuscated by liberals.

Given the mendacity and shocking incompetence of the Bush administration - especially its mishandling of the war in Iraq - liberals can find much to lament in the conservative approach to fighting the war on terror. Unfortunately, liberals hate the current administration with such fury that they regularly fail to acknowledge just how dangerous and depraved our enemies in the Muslim world are.

In their analyses of U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, liberals can be relied on to overlook the most basic moral distinctions. For instance, they ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. Muslims routinely use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause; the political discourse throughout much of the Muslim world, especially with respect to Jews, is explicitly and unabahedly genocidal.

Given these distinctions, there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah. And yet liberals in the United States and Europe often speak as though the truth were otherwise.

We are entering an age of unchecked nuclear proliferation and, it seems likely, nuclear terrorism. There is, therefore, no future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us. Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.

While liberals should be the ones pointing the way beyond this Iron Age madness, they are rendering themselves increasingly irrelevant. Being generally reasonable and tolerant of diversity, liberals should be especially sensitive to the dangers of religious literalism. But they aren’t.

The same failure of liberalism is evident in Western Europe, where the dogma of multiculturalism has left a secular Europe very slow to address the looming problem of religious extremism among its immigrants. The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.

To say that this does not bode well for liberalism is an understatement: It does not bode well for the future of civilization.

Your Maximum Leader finds himself in agreement with pretty much everything that Mr Harris puts forth here. He quotes he article at length just in case you missed it.

Your Maximum Leader particularly cares for the line about people far scarier that Dick Cheney are out to get us… If that doesn’t send shivers down your spine what will?

Carry on.

Muslims Offended. Rioting begins. Again.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been thinking over the whole kerfluffle concerning the recent comments of Pope Benedict to the students and professors at Regensburg University last week. In case you’ve not perused them, here is the text of His Holiness’ remarks.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, and your Maximum Leader presumes that none of his readers live under rocks, you know that Benedict XVI cited the 14th Century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus in his remarks. Emperor Manuel II was not a big friend of Islam and said as much. The Pope, by quoting the Emperor, is now being charged by Muslims around the world as not being a friend of Islam.

Your Maximum Leader is not surprised by anything that has transpired so far. He is not surprised by the entirety of what the Pope said. Nor is he surprised that one portion of it has been picked out and picked upon. Nor is he surprised that Muslims around the world are outraged.

In fact, it all seems a big formulaic don’t you think? Western leader says some unflattering thing about Islam in the context of other comments which are rather praisworthy. Muslims riot. Muslims burn things. Mslims threaten to (and sometimes do) start killing people to protest.

Lenin once wrote that “left-wing communism” was an “infantile disorder.” At what point can we call the “Islamic Street’s” propensity to riot over verbal slights an equally infantile disorder. Your Maximum Leader’s two year old has fewer tantrums than the “Islamic Street.”

Your Maximum Leader is, in a way, sad that Pope Benedict has felt the need to issue apologies and start The Vatican spin machine to mitigate the negative press around the world. Your Maximum Leader says that he is sad “in a way” because he doesn’t find the statement (or quotation as the case may be) offensive in the least. In fact, your Maximum Leader would prefer to mount a vigorous defense of the comments in context. If your Maximum Leader were Pope (a laughable supposition) he would say that he is saddened that Muslims around the world are incapable of rational discourse about their religion - which had a long history of inquiry until the modern age. Your Maximum Leader might further ask if there is a point to attempting dialogue when conversation, by definition, is a two way street. If every comment is greeted with rioting one can hardly expect to talk often…

Many, including your Maximum Leader’s best friend - Kevin the Big Hominid, point out the Pope’s history of not doing a good job of fostering interreligious dicussion. (Here and here) But your Maximum Leader must ask what is the purpose of such dialogue? What is the practical end of discussions between Catholics and Muslims? (Or for that matter Baptists and Jews, or Shintos and Zororastrians?) Assuming that the point of interreligious dialogue is not to attempt to convert one side to the other, then the only practical end of discussions is how can we all get along better? And the question of how we all get along better isn’t so much a religious issue as one of good manners and civility. For example, Catholics should agree that they were wrong to call Jews “Christ-killers,” offer a contrite apology, and never do it again; in return Jews should agree to politely ignore the Catholic faith. (Since your Maximum Leader can’t actually think of anything that Jews have done against Catholics. Further, your Maximum Leader seems to remember that Pope John Paul II did apologize to Jews for the many evils done against them in the name of the Catholic Church and Christian faith.)

So… Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure where to go from here. Jacques Chirac, while neither defending nor attacking the Pope, says that we shouldn’t say things that get Muslims agitated. Unfortunately, it appears as though nothing (of a critical manner at least) can be said which doesn’t agitate muslims. Guess there will not be a lot of dialogue going on.

Carry on.

Finishing School Girls for Art

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is always pleased to have other titles heaped upon his august person. Basil Seal has (so far) heaped the best one upon him.

Recently, the gracious Mrs P didn’t so much bestow upon your Maximum Lader another title; as make him part of a very elite fraternity, the (Roman) Catholic Boys for Art. Well… Actually your Maximum Leader was just seen entertaining the other (Roman) Catholic Boys for Art on his ham pillow - but the connection is tenuous enough for your Maximum Leader to run with it. The real (Roman) Catholic Boys for Art - hereafter RCBfA - are Messrs Seal, Elk and Fiendish. It is unclear as to Mr Cusack’s final status in that group; but your Maximum Leader would hazard a guess that the good Mr Cusack is likely a charter RCBfA member. Your Maximum Leader probably is, at best, a lesser associate member. His Catholic credentials are not quite up to snuff you know…

Anyhoo… The delightful Mrs P (who by the way, is celebrating 16 years of connubial bliss with Mr P this weekend) has, for the purposes of entertaining the RCBfA, been regaling her readers with “art stories.” Alas… Your Maximum Leader doesn’t have any “art stories” to share with you all. He’s not a particularly artistic fellow. Not much for dancing, prancing, or singing either. This is not to say that he is not a lover of “the arts” - for he is. But he is an observer, critic, and sideline-stander. (All the easy things to be…)

But… All these “art stories” from Mrs P (as well as the commentary on statuary by Messrs Seal and Elk) have gotten your Maximum Leader to thinking about statuary in the fair city of Washington DC.

Now once upon a time, your Maximum Leader was lucky enough to have a great professor in college. Richard T. Couture was a character (in addition to being a learned man). Richard was a very well traveled man. All the great cities of the western world he’d visited - as well as many of the great cities of the East. Surprisingly, he’d never traveled much to Washington DC.

Well… Perhaps not all that surprisingly. You see, your Maximum Leader has spent the majority of his life living in the greater Washington DC area. And he’d have to say that Washington has only become a world class city in the past 15 years or so. Sure DC has always had “the government” and the Smithsonian; but other than that… Not too much.

Anyhoo… Richard didn’t visit Washington much. One time, your Maximum Leader convinced Richard to visit DC and see the sights. While your Maximum Leader was giving him the nickel driving tour of the city Richard commented that “There is one predominant architectural and sculptural style in this town.”

“Really? What style is that?” replied your Maximum Leader.

“Totalitarian Gothic,” Richard stated flatly…

Stop for a moment, if you will, and think about the age of the totalitarian builders… Those were the 1930s. Who were the totalitarian builders? Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini. Think of the buildings and sculptures of those times. Some people call it “Socialist Realism.” Your Maximum Leader (thanks to Richard Couture) likes to call it “Totalitarian Gothic.”

Of course… Building at the same time as Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini was the Works Project Administration and all the other alphabet soup agencies of Franklin D Roosevelt’s administration. Many of the imposing edifices of Washington DC date to these federal construction programs. So do the statuary that adorn the buildings.

Compare for yourself if you like. Stalingrad (Volgagrad) vs. DC. Or these. DC vs Moscow.

Now, having introduced you all to Totalitarian Gothic, your Maximum Leader should tell you that not all sculpture (or building) in Washington DC is in the Totalitarian Gothic style. Oh no. There are plenty of other buildings and statuary styles to go around.

One of the most monumental buildings in the city is Union Station. The main (and monumental) terminal entrance to the station was designed around the turn of the last century by Daniel Burnham. It’s large vaulted ceiling is inspired by the Baths of Dioclietian in Rome.

But it is not the ceiling that is the focus of your Maximum Leader’s comments. It is the statuary below the ceiling. The statues of the Roman soliders.

You see, Louis Saint-Gaudens was commissioned to do the sculptures of the Roman Centurions which would adorn the building. The story goes that Saint-Gaudens sent a model from his studio to the commissioners responsible for the building. The statue was supposed to depict a “historically accurate” Roman Centurion. Helmet, breastplate, cape… And in the “all together” below the waist.

Now… First off, any student of the period knows that Roman soliders didn’t march into the heat of battle wearing nothing below the waist. That is just stupid. Everyone (and your Maximum Leader believes that it is truly a sample set of everyone in the whole world) knows that men like to protect their private parts. So the idea of soliders not protecting that area is just artistic whimsy.

Well… The model caused something of a stir. The building commissioners told Saint-Gaudens that the “all together” below the waist wouldn’t do. So the final centurions were crafted standing behind their shields. The rumor is that if you look carefully from certain vantage points you can see behind the sheilds… Your Maximum Leader has never tried to frankly. And for your edification, here is a brief recounting of this story - along with a photo of one of the centurions.

Your Maximum Leader hopes that Mrs P, a Finishing School Girl for Art, enjoys this post and continues to regale her readers with “art stories.”

Carry on.

Smallholder: Callous Cold-Hearted Republican

I enjoyed being able to spend time with my kids and their playgroup this summer. My daughter’s friends and their parents are fun folks. Because the group was initially built around birth dates at the hospital, the mix of people is pretty random. We have raving moonbat liberals, squishy centrists, apolitical types, conservatives (one family named their child Reagan after the great man himself), and in Polymath, an honest to-goodness libertarian.

Politics are rarely discussed.

At one of the kidfests that took place on the farm, one of the mothers began going on about how we needed to do more for the less fortunate. I (cautiously, oh so cautiously) wondered about the efficacy of that approach. I expressed my willingness to pay taxes to help people who needed a helping hand as long as, and this is a big if, that help actually, well, helped. I also expressed concern that many of the chronically unemployed were unemployed not because of systemic oppression but because of poor personal choices and a lack of work ethic. Throwing more money at the unemployable, while not delivering a standard of living with which I’d be content, would make continued poor choices tolerable - and the poor choices would continue.

Another mom jumped in at this point and supported my contention that jobs were available for people willing to work. She and her husband own a restaurant and had been advertising for kitchen help. They were willing to train applicants, pay relatively well, and provide health benefits. They had had zero applicants after two weeks of advertising.

According to moonbat mom, that was irrelevant. She then gave us a “good example” of who she wanted to help. Her best friend, she said, worked at Burger King because she had low self esteem (not her fault) and didn’t have the self-confidence to try to get a better job. Since providing (adequately) for her children was impossible on a Burger King salary, my interlocutor argued that we should pay a larger share of her rent and give her more direct aid.

Now, when she phrased things in this way, I should have walked away. But the Smallholder you all know and love had to say: “Well, perhaps that additional ‘help’ won’t really be helpful at all; if your friend had to face the results of living on a Burger King salary, she would be motivated to find a better job. Need would overcome low self esteem. Having attained a better job, perhaps her self esteem would be raised. Besides, the low self esteem is not a problem created by society. I don’t think you can morally ask someone to pay more in taxes to support your friend with low self esteem.”

She teared up. “What’s a few more dollars in taxes?” She demanded, “People will just blow the extra few bucks on material trinkets or happy meals!”

Now, if I was a smart man, I would have walked away. She was in full-on “defend my best friend” mode.

If I was a clever man who thought quickly on my feet, I would have pointed out that if everyone stopped buying happy meals, Burger Queen would lose her job.

But I simply replied that her friend was unlikely to do anything but buy a trinkets and happy meals herself. In the long run, denying her those things would be in her family’s best interests.

The mom, now actually crying, mustered the worse insult she could imagine:

“You’re such a callous cold-hearted Republican!”

Bionic Arms

In today’s Washington Post, science fiction is reality.

I read it and thought “We are living in an age of miracles and wonders.”

If we are indeed living in the age of miracles and wonders, where are the lasers?

(In honor of Memento Moron’s musical geography posts - which I always enjoy but am never early enough to answer)

    About Naked Villainy

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