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Addressing some comments.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is sitting in the Villainschloss right now in the middle of a domestic crisis. Apparently the Doctor Who marathon on BBC America is not “family friendly” viewing. (So says Mrs Villain.) Additionally, your Maximum Leader has learned that Mrs Villain has no interest in any of the college football on TV right now. So your Maximum Leader has done the wise thing and vacated the TV viewing area for the solitude of his study. (He will likely move back in and watch something a little later this evening.)

Your Maxmium Leader is really looking forward to dinner tonight. Delmonico’s raised on Smallholder’s farm. Matched with baked potatoes and some sparkling wines from around the world.

Your Maximum Leader’s offspring are taking a pool to see which of them will fall asleep first. Your Maximum Leader bet all of them that he will be the only one up at midnight and that he’ll have to wake them all for the change to the new year. Indeed, your Maximum Leader raised the possibilty that he might turn in early and let them all fend for themselves.

Your Maximum Leader got some nice comments to his post on spinning the Civil War. Your Maximum Leader thought the post would elicit some sort of response from the whole “slavery wasn’t the cause of the Civil War crowd.” Sadly, those idiots must know that this is not the place for them.

The interesting comments were about your Maximum Leader’s speculation that Mitt Romney will get the Republican nod in 2012. From Professor Mondo: “Meanwhile, Mitt Romney remains a charisma-free zone. I’m just afraid that the folks down here in Mondoville will go for the Huckster, who is just another statist. At this point, I’m kind of pulling for Mitch Daniels.” Our friend Polymath wrote: “My Lovecraft fantasy has me wishing for a re-animated Reagan.” And our very own farmer, the Smallholder, wrote:

Republicans give their nomination to the last cycle’s runner-up.

But Romney may be the exception that proves the rule. Since Republicans are on a jihad against Obamacare, the fact that Obamacare is essentially Romneycare does not bode well for Romney. It will be difficult for him to squirm away from his record during the primaries, particularly given his preexistent reputation for flip-floppigng. Gingrich advocated a version of health care very similar to Obamacare in ‘94, but he may be able to sidle away because it never went anywhere - Romney actually got it passed.

Mondo, I kind of like Mitch Daniels too. But he’s a bit too centrist to survive the primaries. He would make a good VEEP to appeal to the middle.

Polymath, I doubt Reagan could actually get tea-party votes today. He was too much of a pragmatist, rasied taxes to balance the budget, was in favor of arms control, and advocated tax rates higher than Obama’s. Folks are in love with an idealized person who never existed.

First off, your Maximum Leader must put an end to all this re-animated Reagan stuff. WE CAN’T GO ELECTING ZOMBIES TO OFFICE. Any office, not just President of the United States. Every person with an iota of sense knows that a re-animated corpse is a zombie and zombies aren’t cool. Zombies just want to eat our brains. Your Maximum Leader fears that a re-animated Reagan would not be a strong leader because he could always be sidetracked by a plate of warm steaming brains.

(NB: could one distract zombies by throwing them turrines of sweatbreads?)

Anyway… Even if you were able to safely reanimate Reagan (which your Maximum Leader doubts by the way) the 22nd Amendment still applies and he wouldn’t be eligible. Your Maximum Leader fears that a re-animated Harry Truman is our only option for zombie chief executive.

Your Maximum Leader will stand by the charisma-less, former Massachusetts Governor as the leader for the Republican nod right now. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t really think he knows enough about Mitch Daniels to get worked up one way or the other about him. Smallholder’s comment about Daniels being too moderate for the primaries seems to ring a little false as John McCain (no raging social conservative) didn’t have much of a problem navigating the primaries in 2008. Of course one can argue that the results (and “rage” as the media likes to call it) of the 2010 elections might have changed that. Frankly, your Maximum Leader doesn’t think so. The primaries are the primaries and any Republican who wants a crack at the top job will cater to the base to win the nomination. We speculate about how this year it will be different from past years; but it rarely is that different one cycle to the next.

The whole Obamacare/Romneycare bit isn’t too much of a reach. One can spin it as a question of scale and affordability. Use the Constitution, Obamacare is massive federal overreach; but what Romney did in Mass. is not the same type of deal. States can implement broad social programs within the state if they want. Since the state has to pay for the program it isn’t an unfunded mandate to all or a major source of future debt. It is a subtle argument to be sure; but it might have legs. (Also, Romney can claim that the program has been mismanaged in the years since he left the Governor’s mansion.)

It was Professor Mondo’s comment that Mike Huckabee seems to be enjoying wide support down his way that caused a little distress to your Maximum Leader. Mike Huckabee is one of those potential candidates that really does upset your Maximum Leader. Perhaps your Maximum Leader has a latent prejudice against social conservatives who might actually rise up the the highest office in the land. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t think that he is prejudiced against prominent social conservatives. He thinks his problem is when the conservative in question has ONLY social conservative credentials.

Winston Churchill once said that a fanatic was a person who wouldn’t change their mind and wouldn’t change the subject. Your Maximum Leader thinks that his major objection with many social conservatives is that everything boils down to abortion, prayer and whether or not the US is a Christian nation. Don’t get your Maximum Leader wrong, he is a pretty socially conservative fellow; but he is often looking for policy discussions on a whole host of subjects from his candidates, not just an exposition on religion and politics.

So back to Huckabee… He has executive experience (from a state that has already given us one chief executive). He also seems so authentic and natural as to be everybody’s friend. It is when he starts going on about his young Earth beliefs that he loses your Maximum Leader. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t begrudge anyone their own beliefs concerning the creation and age of the universe; but he finds that there is a strong correlation between those who believe that the universe was created exactly per the Book of Genesis and a lack of curiosity to the natural world. Curiosity in the natural world may not seem like a big prerequisite to higher office, but in your Maximum Leader’s mind it is. That type of curiosity should lead to an appreication for (if not an aptitude for) observation, recording of facts and formulation of hypotheses. Understanding and applying the scientific method (as it were) is a useful tool for developing mental acuity. Mental acuity is a trait of which your Maximum Leader is fond in political leaders.

So back to Huckabee… Your Maximum Leader just can’t imagine him as having the mental acuity needed to be president. This is based solely on Huckabee’s religious beliefs. This type of assessment (a prejudice if you will) is based solely on observations and experience your Maximum Leader has made of others. It may be that Mike Huckabee is a brilliant man with wisdom and understanding beyond what your Maximum Leader has observed. But given what your Maximum Leader has observed, Huckabee is sorta scary as a potential nominee.

Well… Your Maximum Leader believes that he’s run this train of thought off the rails and has no more to say (for the moment) on this subject. He’ll now open the first bottle of bubbly for the evening and see when he might get those steaks.

Carry on.

All is made clear…. ?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was, until about 14 minutes ago, blissfully unaware of the conspiracy that exists in this nation to exterminate a certain minority group. This conspiracy is based in the public schools, churches, Planned Parenthood, the pyschiatric profession and organizations of “European” manufacture.

To elaborate on this conspiracy further your Maximum Leader presents this video (about 14 minutes in length):

Your Maximum Leader is stupified. Just when he starts to forget how insane some people are a video like this one serves to remind him of what craziness people are willing to believe.

Oh yes, one more thing… Your Maximum Leader is glad that Mr. Johnson doesn’t feel the need to subject himself to the oppression of conventional spelling or grammar in the graphics of this video.

Carry on.

Spin and the War of the Rebellion

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t find himself in agreement with E.J. Dionne regularly. Indeed, it is, at the very best, a once in a blue moon type of thing. But E.J. writes a piece in the Washington Post today with which your Maximum Leader completely agrees. Like E.J. enjoins us to do, “Don’t Spin the Civil War.” The money quote:

After the war, in one of the great efforts of spin control in our history, both [Confederate President Jefferson] Davis and [Confederate Vice President Alexander H.] Stephens, despite their own words, insisted that the war was not about slavery after all but about state sovereignty. By then, of course, slavery was “a dead and discredited institution,” [noted Civil War historian James] McPherson wrote, and to “concede that the Confederacy had broken up the United States and launched a war that killed 620,000 Americans in a vain attempt to keep 4 million people in slavery would not confer honor on their lost cause.”

It is all about slavery. Lets not forget that.

Oh yeah, and about that whole Haley Barbour thing from last week (Clicky here to read more about Barbour’s “Citizens Councils” comments), your Maximum Leader thinks it will torpedo any chance of Barbour becoming President of the US any time soon. He may still have a fighting chance in the primaries; but your Maximum Leader thinks he could be done before he got started.

FYI - Some well-connected Republican party types your Maximum Leader knows have maintained that Barbour was going to be the dark horse candiate in the 2012 campaign. They cite Barbour’s access to big money and his success in fundraising as support for this belief. Your Maximum Leader still thinks that the Republican nominee will be Mitt Romney in 2012. If the economy stays crappy, and all signs point towards the economy staying crappy; then Romney can run on economic issues (his strength) and downplay the social-conservative creds needed to win primaries.

Carry on.

Rejoice!

Greetings, loyal minons. Your Maximum Leader thought he’d have a chance to write Christmas well-wishes on ye olde bloge on Christmas Eve. Sadly, he was overcome by events and is only now getting the chance to sit in front of the computer to type out a post.

Your Maximum Leader hopes that you all had a great Christmas. It was a good Christmas at the Villainschloss. Your Maximum Leader was surrounded by family (his own, his parents, his in-laws and his sister’s family). We feasted on roast beast and yorkshire pudding. We had a wide assortment of pies. A great time was had by all.

In the bad news department, Christmas dinner was the first meal that your Maximum Leader prepared in his remodeled kitchen. It did not go off without incident. He did burn the broiled potatoes. (Some of them actually - not the whole batch. His saintly mother-in-law was able to cut of the bad parts on the burnt potatoes.) He also partially burned the second yorkshire pudding. (Again, not badly. But we had fewer crispy pieces as some was stuck to the pan.) The lesson here is that his new oven works better than his old one and he’ll have to watch things a little more closely until he figures out the peculiarities of his new oven.

Before Christmas your Maximum Leader went out to the locale cinema and saw “True Grit.” By happenstance, Turner Classic Movies showed the John Wayne “True Grit” a few days earlier. The Wayne version of the film didn’t stand up as well to a viewing as your Maximum Leader thought it would. He remembers it more fondly than it might deserve. The acting seemed a little forced in the Wayne version and your Maximum Leader got constantly annoyed by Kim Darby (who played Mattie Ross to John Wayne’s Rooster Cogburn). On the other hand, the Coen Brothers did a great job on their version of the film. Yes, it was not ironic in any way (like most Coen Brothers works), but it was an adaptation of a great book. Both films have a lot to commend them. Your Maximum Leader, if forced to choose, would likely choose the Coen Brothers’ adaptation over the John Wayne vehicle. (Let’s face it, True Grit wasn’t Wayne’s finest role, it was the one they decided to give him the Oscar for since they didn’t yet have “lifetime achievement” awards.) Frankly, both films are a great way to pass a few hours.

Lest you think you’ve escaped a mention of Venice at Christmas, here is the famous porphyry of the Four Tetrarchs found on the side of St. Mark’s in Venice:
tetarchs in snow

And in keeping with his own tradition, here is “The Adoration” by El Greco:
The Adoration

Carry on.

Checking in

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been quite busy lately. There have been some major improvements going on at the Villainschloss. The improvements involve cabinets, appliances, gas lines, water lines, flooring and black granite. Yes, the Villainschloss has gotten a new kitchen. The process has been quite disruptive around the Villainschloss. In an effort to keep the stress level lower, he and Mrs Villain have been a little more permissive when it comes to time watching TV or getting on the interwebs for our brood. And since we have a new kitchen, we don’t have an additional computer. No additional computer means not lots of blogging time for your Maximum Leader. (Your Maximum Leader has been tweeting if you use the “Tweety Box” as Craig Ferguson calls it. (Follow him at twitter.com/maximumleader)

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader should have some time tonight to write. He’ll probably do some sort of lame-o Christmas post that will consist of a large graphic of an El Greco painting (as has become his habit of late).

Carry on.

100 Below: Gunfight

The Marshal stepped into Wallace’s Saloon. He had a scattergun in one hand and a Peacemaker in the other.

He’d been shot three times during his career. His face was scarred on one side from buckshot and on the other from knife wounds. The knife scars created a pull on one corner of his mouth.

He looked to a table with three disreputables.

“Nate,” he commanded. “Come with me or throw down.”

Sadly what most of the saloon heard was “Come with me to the hoedown.”

That is when the laughing started.

Shortly after the laughing came the killing.

Health Care Judgement - Part One of Many

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees in the news that a Federal District judge has ruled that some provisions of the recently enacted health care reform bill are unconstitutional. This is good news.

Of course, it is good news of a moderate sort. By this your Maximum Leader means that other judges have ruled that the same provision (namely the requirement for individuals to buy insurance) is constitutional. This is just another shot in a long legal battle that stands before opponents of the law (represented here by Virginia Atty Gen Ken Cuccinelli and other Attorneys General from around the US) and the US Department of Justice.

Your Maximum Leader sees in the piece that VA AG Cuccinelli has requested the US Supreme Court to handle the appeal directly bypassing the federal appeals courts. Your Maximum Leader thinks that this would be a good thing for the SCOTUS to do; but he doubts that it will happen.

Carry on.

We wants it.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was noticing that the luggage he owns is getting a little old and worn. If any of you would care to get him a new piece of luggage he would really like a Waterbag (Chestnut or Coffee color) from the Saddleback Leather Company.

If you don’t feel like shelling out $650 on a bag for your Maximum Leader he also needs a new wallet. This one would be awfully nice.

Please note that everything the Saddleback Leather Company sells comes with a 100 Year Warranty. That is standing behind your product… Your Maximum Leader likes it.

Carry on.

La Serenissima & Bella Mara

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader hasn’t blogged much recently due to a chronic case of TV viewing. Of course when you have a new Panasonic Viera 54 inch Plasma TV you may want to spend your time watching it. If you want to know your Maximum Leader’s thoughts on his new TV here they come: this TV is awesome. Yup. This TV is completely awesome.

FYI… The first film he watched on his new TV, on BlueRay, in true 1080p HD was Zombieland.

Well my minions…

Your Maximum Leader has been completely infected by the bug again. The Venice bug. It has been in the forefront of his mind quite a bit over the past few weeks. He doesn’t recall if there was a particular trigger for the bug, but it is all-consuming.

For a city to which your Maximum Leader has never traveled Venice holds a strange manic fixation for him. He reads about Venice, he thinks about what he’ll do in Venice, he thinks about the future and past of Venice. This year he actually started worrying that when he finally does get to Venice that he’ll hate it or find something to dislike about it. But even those thoughts can’t keep him from thinking about visiting La Serenissima. He worries that Venice’s problems will ruin the image of the city he has in his mind.

Venice has so many problems and so few viable solutions to any of them. The first problem is, well, the water. As your Maximum Leader has highlighted on this blog many times (and he’ll do so again now), the acqua alta (or high water) is affecting the city more and more frequently and is getting higher and higher with each passing year. The high water yesterday was reportedly over a meter deep in St. Mark’s square.

Another problem is the over-commericalization of Venice. People (Venitians and outsiders) think that the city is becoming “Veniceland” and ceasing to be a city. They contend that the 20 million tourists that flood the city by day in the warm weather months are driving out reasonably priced apartments, grocers, and many of the people and businesses that make a city a city. The population of Venice has declined to between 50,000-60,000 (from a late 1950s popluation of nearly 130,000). Without some way of keeping prices down in the city more citizens will leave and eventually Venice could become a tourist city with the workers coming in by train or boat from their homes on terra firma and leaving after the tourists in the evening.

In the over-commericalization vein, the costs of keeping up the city continue to skyrocket. Many people are complaining about how the city is auctioning off advertising space on scaffolding around historic buildings in Venice (including this ghastly ad for Coke - a product your Maximum Leader completely endorses - on the side of the Doge’s Palace). Sadly, your Maximum Leader isn’t sure that there are many other choices for preserving the city. With a dwindling tax-base you have to sell the assests you can to raise money to preserve the landmarks that draw in the tourists. The mayor of Venice, Giorgio Orsoni, earlier this year proposed a tax on tourists. The proposal was that every tourist who enters the city, but does not spend the night in the city, should pay a 10 Euro tax. The city would then spend the tax on keeping up the city buildings and services. Frankly, your Maximum Leader is all for this proposal. 10 Euros a person and 20 million tourists. Let’s say that 2 million of those tourists spend the night (which seems a little high, but he’s going with it anyway) that is still 180 million Euros in revenue gained. That seems like a reasonable visitation tax with a worthwhile purpose.

But even with all the talk of overcommericalization, sinking and crowds of tourists, your Maximum Leader feels the city is pulling at his soul. The city calls him to visit. He hopes that his visit will be like the one he recently read about on-line in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (although the piece is orginally from the New York Times - your Maximum Leader doesn’t read the NY Times as a matter of policy, unless he is in New York City). In the piece Rachel Donadio relates her first visit to Venice in many years. It is a great travel piece that your Maximum Leader will commend to you. Here is a taste:

I HADN’T been back to Venice in years when I found myself there on assignment. It was November; the city’s scattered trees had begun to turn brown. The light, as always, was beyond compare and there was a watery chill in the air. I loved it immediately.

Or rather, I remembered how much I loved it. Italy can do strange things to your perspective. Memories of a place become more real than the place itself. I had lived for years with the Venice of my recollections — traveling there at 19, drinking peach iced tea in the July heat, discovering Giorgione — and then last November I was back. I was older, so was Venice.

The visit whetted my appetite, and not long afterward I returned one freezing January weekend, armed with several sweaters, boots and a well-worn copy of “Watermark,” Joseph Brodsky’s marvelous prose poem about Venice in winter, which would be my guide. It is an emotional guidebook more than a practical one, but, I would argue, just as reliable. In Venice, maps fail. As everyone knows, to be in that floating city is to be forever lost and disoriented, as if in a labyrinth.

On that November foray, I had listened to a group of American college students talking as they wandered around near the Rialto Bridge. “I don’t mind if we’re, like, lost all day,” one told his friends. “Dude,” another replied, “I don’t think we have a choice.”

Goethe could not have put it better. Venice, as he famously wrote, can be compared only to itself. So many wonderful writers have captured Venice, from Goethe to Henry James to Evelyn Waugh, that it is all the more remarkable that in 1992 Brodsky, in “Watermark,” managed to create a truly original piece of writing about this cliché-worn city.

Your Maximum Leader read “Watermark” last Christmas. It is one of the most lyrical short books he’s ever read. Brodsky could really turn a phrase and capture a moment in poetic prose. If you can, pick up a copy and read it. It will take you a short afternoon (or a long one if you savor the words).

Anyhoo… Venice is on your Maximum Leader’s mind.

You know what other Italian thing is on your Maximum Leader’s mind? No? Well let him tell you. Mara Carfagna. Yes, the beautiful and talented Minister for Equal Opportunity in the Berlusconi government. Your Maximum Leader has read over the past year that Minister Carfagna had gotten a lot of press for trying to outlaw street prostitution and provide more protection for homosexuals and victims of rape. Right around Thanksgiving in the US your Maximum Leader read that Mara Carfagna (Bella Mara as the Italian papers seem to call her) was going to resign from her position. Your Maximum Leader had read about the ongoing garbage collector strike in Naples and the growing mountains of refuse in the city; but now that crisis had real impact to him. Carfagna was going to resign over the government’s inability to resolve that situation. Your Maximum Leader was going to lament that the world’s most beautiful government minister was going to resign over garbage. Apparently, and luckily for all involved, Carfagna and Berlusconi must have worked something out because she is going to stay on (for a while at least). If you would like a little news analysis on Mara Carfagna here is a nice piece in Spiegel International called: Neither Saints Nor Whores.

Well, that is about all the Italian stuff brewing around in your Maximum Leader’s brain right now. He’ll leave the blog now and check out some college football. Today he’s rooting for the USC Gamecocks to put the smackdown on Auburn (mainly because he wants to see TCU try for the National Championship) and the Virginia Tech Hokies in the ACC championship.

Carry on.

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