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Old Nick

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wants to say something right up front here. Fellow blogger Mark, of Witnit.org, rocks! Mark totally rocks!

Now, why you may ask does your Maximum Leader shower Mark with such praise on this day? Well… Not only is Mark having the coolest holiday week ever by going (with Mrs Witnit) to Florence, Italy for some quality time; but he remembered a modest request made my your Maximum Leader many moons ago. Back in June/July when Mark was planning his trip, your Maximum Leader made some sightseeing and dining suggestions. At the time your Maximum Leader asked if Mark would make a visit to your Maximum Leader’s favorite son of Florence’s grave and pay some respects to him.

And Mark, bless his little cotton socks, remembered your Maximum Leader’s request. Photographic evidence of this follows…

Gentle readers… Thanks to Mark, here is the grave of Niccolo Machiavelli with a rose of tribute from your Maximum Leader via Mark and his lovely wife.

The grave of Niccolo Machiavelli at Santa Croce.  Florence, Italy.

And for those of you who aren’t into the whole photo-of-Machiavelli’s-grave-thingie, here is another image (with the same rose by the way) for you. This time it is a statue of Machiavelli found outside the Uffizi museum.

Niccolo Machiavelli at the Uffizi. Florence, Italy

NB: Did you know that there is a school of etymology that believes that the work “office” in English is derived from “uffizi” in Italian? You see, the Medici’s organized the Florentine government during the Renaissance into a number of departments. One could say that the Medicis introduced the first “modern” bureaucracy to the West. (Bureaucracy had long existed in China after all.) The Medicis discovered that their growing bureaucracy needed office space. So the family purchased the Uffizi palace in Florence to house their growing bureaucratic ranks. Thus, if you were a Renaissance Florentine Bureaucrat working for the Medicis it was likely that you would walk every day to work at your office in the Uffizi. Not bad digs for a government employee.

Many thanks to you Mark for these pictures. Your Maximum Leader is very grateful.

And for the ladies! Check out Mark’s recent post about “art” in Florence. The post title should clue you in as to the type of art Mrs Witnit was looking at while vacationing…

Carry on.

Goin’ to Graceland…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is a huge Elvis fan. Perhaps not quite the same type of Elvis fan as our Loyal Minion Skippy, but a huge fan nonetheless. Indeed, your Maximum Leader might be as much of an Elvis fan as Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi…

It was with great excitement that your Maximum Leader read this in yesterday’s Washington Post:

Bill Clinton was supposedly the biggest presidential Elvis Presley fan ever — the Secret Service even code-named him “Elvis.” But did he ever undertake a diplomatic mission to Graceland?

No, sir! Instead, George W. Bush will become the first sitting president to visit the King’s Memphis home when he and Laura escort Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi there June 30. The White House yesterday announced the plans for the awesomest road trip ever (except that they’ll probably fly), slated for a day after the two heads of state and close pals meet in Washington.

Beauty, eh?

Carry on.

Killing Saddam, Part the Second

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that Saddam Hussein is dead. Executed on orders of the judiciary of his country.

As he was last night, your Maximum Leader is filled with a little ambivilence towards this turn of events. He doesn’t regretthat Saddam Hussein has been executed. He isn’t upset that Saddam Hussein has been executed. If anything, he still thinks that hanging was probably too good for him.

With Saddam’s execution, one hopes that a chapter of Iraqi history can now be fully written. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t think that the history is yet complete. The full extent of documenting Saddam’s crimes against his people will continue. But at this point the documentation is filler. The story has ended. The last line has been written.

Your Maximum Leader will admit something to you all. Last night, before going to bed, your Maximum Leader was praying. As he was “wrapping up” his prayers a thought entered his mind. Your Maximum Leader thought he should, of all things, say a prayer for Saddam Hussein and the people of Iraq.

Your Maximum Leader sat still and contemplated the full implications of that thought. When one thinks that he ought to say a prayer for someone it seems wrong at some level to not act on that impulse. But what do you pray for in this case? In the end, your Maximum Leader prayed that the people of Iraq can put Saddam behind them and build a new nation. He also prayed the God’s will be done with Saddam Hussein. It was probably more than he deserved.

Now your Maximum Leader supposes he could paraphrase the medieval Abbot of Citeaux and say “Kill Saddam. God will know his own.”

Carry on.

Killing Saddam

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader reads on the news wire that Saddam Hussein is likely to be hanged at dawn. (That would be the middle of the night for me in the Villainschloss.)

Long time readers will know that not only did your Maximum Leader support the US invasion of Iraq (and he continues to think that it was a good move at the time). And they will surely know that he has no problem executing people. Indeed, some people just need killin’. Saddam Hussein is one of those who need killin’.

Excursus: Did your Maximum Leader once write a post about why he thought that WWII war criminals (high-ranking Nazis and Japanese) should have just been rounded up and executed? Was that a blog post? Was it a paper in graduate school? Anyway… Since your Maximum Leader’s archives (and trackbacks) still aren’t fully functional; he can’t tell you for sure.

But, your Maximum Leader isn’t in favor of killing Saddam Hussein. At least not now. It seems to him as though once you’ve started a whole judicial process and queued up cases against him, you need to finish the process. Your Maximum Leader might have felt a little different if he had been convicted and immediately conveyed to the place of execution. (Does anyone do that anymore? Conviction in the morning and execution at sundown… Trust your Maximum Leader, you’ll see a bit of that during the Mike World Order.) But since the Iraqi government has lined up further cases against their former leader; it seems as though they should just keep on convicting him of further crimes and when they’ve had enough trials then kill him.

It is possible that the Iraqis are ready to be done with Saddam now. Perhaps they don’t really want to go on with more trials. They’ve had enough. Thirty years of dictatorship and oppression can do that to you.

Of course one wonders about the fallout of a Saddam execution. While there aren’t lots of Iraqi “Whites” leading armies to free their “Tsar” from the “Reds,” there might be a small number of Sunni insurgents who will give up the will to fight once Saddam is dead. Very few most likely.

Frankly, your Maximum Leader feels that the hanging of Saddam Hussein will likely result in giving insurgents an excuse to kill more Iraqis. Not that keeping him alive will result in insurgents killing fewer of their countrymen.

Your Maximum Leader supposes he is more ambivilent about killing Saddam than he suspected. Hanging is probably too good for ‘em. But, your Maximum Leader supposes that the Iraqi government isn’t about to drop Saddam off the back of a truck in a Kurdish village announcing “Here’s Saddam! Do what thou wilt.”

Now THAT would be justice.

Carry on.

On Farming

The Smallholder will appreciate this:

It seemed best to stick with the arrangement that was already in place with the sheep farmers while we improved the land. As part of this process, Paddy insisted that we do something about the rooks.

There were certainly lots of them, a multitude. It’s hard to tell exactly how many as they wheel and soar, spectacular and secret, high above the forest. I didn’t mind them around the place.

They are a nuisance, though. Along with magpies, jackdaws, ravens and jays, rooks are members of the corvid family. They’re tough and clever.

The collective noun for rooks is a parliament, and a parliament of rooks can be deafening. The sheep farmers claim they will peck out newborn lambs’ eyes.

This may well not be true, but they do eat other birds’ eggs, and if you “let it be”, you end up with just rooks. It seemed that the reasonable thing to do was to reduce numbers, to lend a benign hand to the balance of nature, to cull them. Kill them, that is.

Killing rooks is not nice at all. There are no neat boxes for exterminating them; shotguns are the only thng that work and it’s a pretty medieval and messy business, which I don’t enjoy.

But I felt I was acting for the greater good. It was a hard decision for a vegetarian to make, and the moment I made that decision was the moment I became a farmer.

Another Religious Type Quiz

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader saw this quiz over on Bill’s site. So he took it.

Apparently your Maximum Leader, were he a saint, is Saint Benedict.


Which Saint Would You Be?


Saint Benedict is praying for you! To learn more about this holy monk go to the Patron Saint Index at http://www.catholic-forum.com
Take this quiz!



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Your Maximum Leader was hoping for Saint Augustine… But he’ll take what he can get.

Carry on.

New Villainschloss?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees in the Washington Post a little article that is quite interesting.

Ford’s Former Home Languishes On Market.

It seems as though the home, built by the Fords in the 1950s, has spent some time on the market without selling. The Fords lived in the house through President Ford’s years in Congress, then through his time as Vice-President; and finally for 10 days while he waited to move into the White House following Richard Nixon’s resignation.

From a reading of the piece it seems as though the house has not been redecorated since the Fords left in 1974.

Not that he’s looking, but the house would be sorta cool to own. Your Maximum Leader imagines that the 70’s era telecommunications equipment would need to be upgraded… But heck… How many houses can claim that they were home to a President?

Carry on.

Cross Quiz

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader saw over a Mr & Mrs P’s place a link to a cross quiz. Since it had been a while since he’d posted a quiz he thought he’d take it.

It seems your Maximum Leader is a Corpus Christi Crucifix. Or so say the results.


What Kind of Cross are You?


You are the Corpus Christi Crucifix: The cross that bears the body of Christ is the most venerated of all the crosses. It hangs in the most sacred places in the world and inspires the faithful to contemplate the suffering of Christ.
Take this quiz!



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Your Maximum Leader is not terribly surprised by the result. He is a little surprised that he took the quiz… Apostate that he is…

Carry on.

Gerald R. Ford, RIP

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees on TV and print that former President Gerald R. Ford has died in California. He was 93 years old. Your Maximum Leader has generally favorable memories of President Ford. Of course, your Maximum Leader was pretty young during the 2 and a half years of the Ford Presidency (your Maximum Leader was born in 1969). He does remember seeing some of the Ford/Carter debates on TV. He also remembers seeing people around him wearing WIN (Whip Inflation Now) buttons during the same period. Your Maximum Leader also remembers people advising others not to vote for Carter in 1976 because “Carter, like all Democrats, will raise taxes.” At the time it seems as though your Maximum Leader started to make the association that high taxes were bad. Thus he started down the path towards being an economic conservative. He is unsure if he should thank Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter for that…

As your Maximum Leader grew older, and came of age politically during the Reagan Years, he didn’t think very favorably of Gerald Ford. Ford wasn’t a “conservative” of course but was cut from the more “moderate” Republican mold. He seems to remember a litmus test for getting a job in the Reagan Administration was to answer three questions correctly. The three were “Is the person a Republican? Is the person a conservative? Did the person support Ford over Reagan in 76?” (You needed to answer yes, yes, no to get the nod.)

As your Maximum Leader grew even older, he started to reassess President Ford. While he wasn’t a “conservative” in the sense that your Maximum Leader was, Ford was a good and honorable man who was thrust into job he never sought (or even desired to have). In retrospect, as many, more able, commentators have already opined, Ford was the right man for the job after Richard Nixon lef the White House in disgrace. Ford’s convictions were evident in his actions as President. And the nation was made better for it.

Gerald Ford was a patriot and an honorable man. Your Maximum Leader hopes he is in peace with his maker.

If you haven’t read one already, the Washington Post Obituary is quite good. You should read it.

Carry on.

UPDATE: Of course, your Maximum Leader should have checked out Skippy’s site before posting this. Skippy’s post on Ford is much more eloquent than this one. If you are going to read a post on Ford, read Skippy’s.

Merry Christmas

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure if there is some significance to the fact that this message, wishing all of you - the readers of Naked Villainy - a Merry Christmas is the 3000th post on this blog.

If there is significance to it, please write your Maximum Leader and let him know what it is.

Your Maximum Leader is signing off this blog through some point next week (most likely).

May all of you, and yours, have a very Merry Christmas. God bless you all.

The Adoration by El Greco

Carry on.

Not filled with Christmas cheer.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is filled with mixed feelings concerning the recent goings-on in the Episcopal Church. By now you’ve probably heard that a number of Virginia parishes have voted to seceed from the Episcopal Church USA and affiliate with another group of the Anglican Communion.

On the one hand your Maximum Leader realizes that these are diffcult and taxing times for all those involved and everyone involved should probably take some time to pray for guidance, understanding, and compassion. But on the other hand he’s hoping that some heretics get burned.

Wha? No heretics are getting burned at the stake? Drat.

More seriously… Did you read the piece by Bishopress Schori? The one in the Washington Post? The one that goes:

The Episcopal Church continues to focus on its mission of reconciling the world, particularly as it cares for the least, the lost, and the left out.

While the Episcopal Church laments the recent votes by some persons in Virginia congregations to leave this Church, we are clear that individuals may depart, but congregations do not. Congregations are created and recognized by the diocese in which they exist, and can only be closed by action of the bishop and diocesan governing bodies. Even if a large percentage of a congregation departs, the remaining people will be assisted by the diocese and the larger Church to reconstitute their congregation and continue in mission and ministry in that place.

These recent departures have received a significant amount of publicity, but they represent a tiny percentage of the total number of Episcopalians in the Church. We regret and grieve their departure, and pray that they may continue their journey as Christians in another home.
In the hope that some may decide to return, we intend to keep the door open and the light on.

Those Episcopalians who remain will be offered every pastoral assistance we can provide, in the hope and expectation that mission and ministry continue in their communities. Our Anglican tradition is a broad and comprehensive one, with space for people of widely varying theological opinions. We will continue to model an expansive welcome for all people.

Our mission as a Church is the reconciliation of the world. We will continue to feed the hungry, house the homeless, educate children, heal the sick, minister to those in prison, and speak good news to those who have only heard the world’s bad news. That is the work to which Jesus calls us, and that is the work we shall continue - with a priority of peace and justice work framed by the Millennium Development Goals. May God bless that which seeks to unite and build up and heal this broken world.

Let’s see here… Your Maximum Leader takes this as a polite way of saying “Yeah guys… Go play with your African friends. We’re keeping your churches. Have a day.” Your Maximum Leader is guessing that this whole thing will not end well.

It is interesting to read some of the more intelligent comments on the Schori piece in the post.

You know something… Bishopress Schori’s statement is filled with references to good deed and helping the poor and downtrodden. There is fleeting reference to “widely varying theological opinions” and that is the point to which your Maximum Leader would like to ask a question. Is it important that a church have some sort of core beliefs? Perhaps the core beliefs of the Episcopal Church are helping the poor and downtrodden. That is fine. It would also put the Episcopal Church in the same grouping as the Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs. (Your Maximum Leader almost typed inthe Salvation Army, but the Salvation Army is a strongly Christian organization.) But at what point do some of those “widely varying theological opinions” need to be made a little less “widely varying?”

Your Maximum Leader is all for people being able to associate with like-minded people. Especially in matters of religion. Indeed, it seems vitally important to your Maximum Leader that one associate with like-minded co-religionists. In the case of the Episcopal Church, they seem to have reached an impass. The “widely varying theological” tradition appears to be a little too widely varying in areas that at least some people feel shouldn’t be so divergent. The Protestant tradition is filled with groups breaking off into other groups and becoming smaller, more homogenous organizations. Your Maximum Leader thinks the time of many “Episcopal Churches” in America is upon us.

For those of you readers who are members of the Episcopal Church, your Maximum Leader does actually feel for you. He hopes that you follow your conscience and do right by your beliefs.

Carry on.

Christmas Meme

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, while not specifically “tagged” for this “meme” thingie has decided to participate nonetheless. Here are your Maximum Leader’s thoughts on many things Christmas.

Egg nog or hot chocolate?
Egg nog. With bourbon. Lots and lots of bourbon.
Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Santa sets presents under the tree. Santa doesn’t have ready access to the myriad illegals needed to wrap every present for every girl and boy.
Colored lights on tree/house or white?
White on tree. None on house. Lights on house seem petty and bourgoise.
Do you hang mistletoe?
From your Maximum Leader’s enormous… Ahem… No. No mistletoe is hanged a the Villainschloss.
When do you put your decorations up?
If it was up to your Maximum Leader, they would not go up until about two weeks before Christmas and they would come down after the Epiphany. As it is, Mrs Villain is a much more festive person than is your Maximum Leader. So the decorations go up during the weekend of Thanksgiving and stay up until the Epiphany.
What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Roast beef. Yorkshire pudding. You know, the traditional stuff.
Favorite holiday memory as a child?
Your Maximum Leader is embarassed to say that he doesn’t have many distinct holiday memories. At least nothing that stands out in a meaningful way.
When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
Your Maximum Leader seems to remember that the might have stumbled upon some gifts in a parental hiding place. Then on Christmas the presents appeared “from Santa.” Your Maximum Leader started to think about how this could be and put two and two together. This might have been around age 7 or 8.
Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
NO! NO! And Hell No! It is wrong to open Christmas gifts earlier than Christmas. Your Maximum Leader has gotten more adamant about this point since he’s been a parent.
How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Your Maximum Leader tries to avoid decorating the tree. Mrs Villain and the Villainettes do the decorating. The “style” is a hodgepodge of different ornaments collected over many years. The tasteful ones tend to be from Mrs Villain. The home-made ones (which are quite dear to your Maximum Leader) are from the Villainettes. The tacky ones (like the two Elvis ornaments) are your Maximum Leader’s.
Snow! Love it or dread it?
Your Maximum Leader loves it. He doesn’t particularly care to drive in it. But snow, and winter in general, are important. They balance out the heat of the summer and keep your Maximum Leader’s “wa” in balance.
Can you ice skate?
Not very well. At one point your Maximum Leader thought he wanted to be a hockey player. Then he learned he wasn’t a particularly adept skater. He also didn’t have the willpower to keep practicing. So he pretty much sucks at skating.
Do you remember your favorite gift?
It was the iPod he received last year.
What??s the most important thing about the holidays for you?
Aww… How mushy… It is being with family and seeing the joy in his children’s faces.
What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Humm… Pie. Your Maximum Leader is very partial to fruit pies.
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Reading the Nativity story from Luke’s Gospel Christmas morning.
What tops your tree?
A large white star.
Which do you prefer, giving or receiving?
Your Maximum Leader will answer honestly and say receiving. Mainly because he has a large Amazon wish list and just refers gift givers there. So he generally gets things he’s interested in. People who don’t make “gifting” easy (by telling you what they would like or setting up a wish list somewhere) can be quite tiresome for your Maximum Leader. He is not of the school where trying to “match” the perfect gift to the right person is a fun activity. It is a taxing endeavour fraught with anxiety.
What is your favorite Christmas song?
That is a toughie. He likes Adeste Fideles (in Latin), It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, and Good King Wenceslas.
Candy canes?
Crushed and mixed into white chocolate. That is the only way to eat them.
Favorite Christmas movie?
The Lion In Winter.
What do you leave for Santa?
The Villainettes leave homemade toffee, homemade cookies, and egg nog. Your Maximum Leader leaves a glass of scotch. You know… To take the edge off the cold…

There you have it loyal minions. You now know all you ever wanted to know about your Maximum Leader and Christmas. (And your Maximum Leader has a post that is both topical and long…)

Carry on.

Dumbstruck

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader must be honest with you. He just hasn’t had the time or inclination to blog. This is not due to a lack of subject matter. Indeed, there has been so much he’s wanted to comment upon. It has been a combination of too little time being mixed with too little energy. If given the choice recently between blogging or sleeping; your Maximum Leader has chosen sleep.

Of course, on the upside of things… Smallholder has decided to post. That in and of itself has struck your Maximum Leader a little dumb. He’s grown unaccustomed to checking his own blog to see if one of his minister has written anything…

Thanks to Smallholder for posting. And look for some of his new rotating tag lines to start appearing…

Carry on.

An Offering For The Maximum Leader

In penance for being AWOL lo these many moons, I offer the Maximum Leader the following taglines for the rotating masthead from an office e-mail:

Chaos, panic and disorder - our work here is finally done.

We’ll try being nicer if you try being smarter.

Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.

Sarcasm is just one more service we offer.

Validating yout inherent mistrust of strangers you meet on the internet.

Yes, the Minister of Propaganda is an agent of Satan. But his duties are largely ceremonial

In Praise of Illegal (Undocumented? Citzenship Disadvantaged?) Workers

Last summer Mrs. Smallholder and I went on a two day tour of grazing dairies in Virginia and North Carolina.

I know, ladies, I’m a romantic. But remember, I’m taken. The last thing I need is you gals moving into the barn with Sadie, pining for your agricultural Adonis.

A common theme in the discussions we had with the tour group was the problem of finding dependable workers. They universally bemoaned the fact that no one was willing to get up early to milk cows (I refrained from pointing out that if they milked themselves, they could make a living with fewer cows and a lower debt load). I heard some racist statements - but they generally conceded that those wetbacks were willing to work when many native-born Americans wouldn’t work. Several guys were paying $11/hour for two five hour shifts a day, seven days a week - with housing included (though the housing is typically a run-down single-wide). This comes to $770 a week - not bad for a job that can be learned and mastered in one week of on-the job training.

I found this quite interesting in light of the long running debate I have had with a Boy Named Sous. Brian is concerned that illegals displace hard-working Americans. I’m convinced that hard-working Americans ARE working and that if someone is lazy or socially impaired enough to be outcompeted by a person who doesn’t speak English they ought to be unemployed.

When people complain that jobs don’t exist, I suggest they look into milking. In fact, I suggested as much to one of my poorly-motivated class of freshmen. I said that hard-work was rewarded and said that if they were willing to work hard they could get a job in the dairy industry. A couple kids asked about the working conditions. When I got to the part about milking at 5 AM, there was general dismay: “I’m not gettin’ up at no five o’clock!”

I also had occasion to talk to a professional dairyman cousin (Bonnie just wouldn’t stop producing milk even after we stopped miling her and took her calf to the butcher - I was concerned if there was anything else I should do yo dry her off). Johnny works for another cousin - Pinky who runs a mega-dairy. Other than family-members, the work crew is entirely Mexican. Johnny allowed as how they hadn’t checked too closely on the information provided to show citzenship or legal residence - they aren’t required by law to do so and don’t particualrly care. He said that the pro-immigrant worker sentiment I had seen in Virginia was also present among his peers in Wisconsin. Reliability was the key issue - cows have to be milked whether or not workers show up. He said that Anglo kids wuld just not show up some days. If a Mexican worker was on his deathbad and absolutely could not show, he would send his brother. The cows get milked. The marketplace for labor favors folks who take working seriously.

Lest you think that your humble Smallholder is so full of anecdotal crap that his eyes are brown, I recommend the 2006 dairy wage survey. Over half of the milkers in American dairies are “foreign born” - and a good chunk of those workers’ identification cards would not bear close scrutiny. In fact, Meixcan workers are so essential to the modern dairy industry that cooperative extension offices are offering courses in “Spanish for dairy operators” and publishing bilingual dairy dictionaries. Cornell even offers a 400 level “Advanced Spanish.”

Don’t cry for the poor oppressed American worker. Jobs exist if you are willing to work.

    About Naked Villainy

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