Game of Thrones

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has had many things to do over the past few days. He’s delayed in doing is civic duty to and paying the price of civilisation until this weekend. He figured that he’d wind up, due to tax code changes owning some money. He did in fact, but the damage wasn’t as bad as he’d imagined. So there is that.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader was a young lad when President Ronald Reagan got his historic tax cuts passed in the 1982. He was still a young man when Reagan had to increase taxes in 1986. He thought of himself as a supply-sider and tax cutter. But now he finds himself an older man and he wonders if we are not on the left side of the Laffer Curve and not on the right. He had no doubt in the 1980s that we were on the right side of the Laffer Curve and cuts would increase revenues. Of course, we never cut spending, so at some level it didn’t really matter at all what side of the Laffer Curve we found ourselves. But now, in 2019, your Maximum Leader is pretty sure that insofar as tax rates are concerned, the United States is on the wrong side of the collection curve. But, just as it was true in the 1980s, it doesn’t matter because both parties are happy to spend our nation to oblivion.)

Your Maximum Leader was able to oversee (personally) the mowing of the grass in front of the Villainschloss. This may not seem like a big thing. But the weather has been warm and rainy and the grass (see: weeds) has been growing like crazy. Your Maximum Leader spend more time than expected mowing grass. It was tall and wet. It was slow going. So that wasn’t too fun.

But the real object of the weekend will be the premier of the final season of Game of Thrones on HBO tonight. Your Maximum Leader, and millions of others, have been waiting for it. Over the years that your Maximum Leader has read the books, watched the show, and waited for more books. He is now feeling much more sanguine about the story than he was a few years ago. A few years back, he would have been upset if any character other than Danerys Targaryen ended up on the Iron Throne. But now, he is okay with any number of characters ending up on that prickly chair. He is okay with it because he’s come to the point that the story will be what it will be, and nothing he does will change that. Indeed, he is pretty sure that we will now have two different stories to talk about. There will be the story from the TV show and the book story. Your Maximum Leader thinks they will be wildly divergent now. As he understands it, the show producers and story creator (David Benhoff and D.B. Wiess on the show side and George R.R. Martin as the creator) had a big talk. Martin shared the arch of the story (and its ending) with Benhoff and Wiess so that they could do the show. Benhoff and Wiess have now done their show, soon it will be in the books and over. But, as we know, the books are still far from done. Your Maximum Leader thinks that one of the reasons for the delay is that George Martin is re-writing the crap out of the story just to be difficult. He may have had a story arch in mind when he started, and when he shared it with Benhoff and Wiess; but now he’s changing it just because he can. That leaves your Maximum Leader thinking that he is just going to live with whatever is produced in both formats and enjoy it as much as he can.

So he’s got that going for him.

Now your Maximum Leader is going to sign off and have a cocktail. It has been a long weekend.

Carry on.

Musings on Thomas Hobbes 431st Birthday.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader raised a glass of whisky this past Friday (April 5th) and toasted Thomas Hobbes. Thomas Hobbes is on a very short list of political philosophers that your Maximum Leader greatly admires. Thomas Hobbes. Michael Oakeshott. Edmund Burke. Those are the big three…

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader wrote recently about how to classify Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He was using old Cold War Soviet terms for his classification. So he had the Soviet Union on his mind. Bringing the Soviet Union more to the forefront of his mind was his watching (probably for the 100th time) “The Death of Stalin.” It happened to be on cable on Friday night. He caught it about 15 minutes in…

NB: Your Maximum Leader loves (LURVES!) “The Death of Stalin.” It is funny. It is intelligent. It is so well acted and well written and well directed. He rented it to watch on a flight to California last year. He saw it and knew he had to own it. He bought it upon landing and watched it three more times that weekend. He’s watched it a bunch since. In the past five years there have been two films that your Maximum Leader has found rewatchable over and over again. They are “Stalin” and “Deadpool.”

So, moving along…

Your Maximum Leader had been thinking about nomenklatura. Then he had been watching the comic antics of the Soviet Politburo jockeying for power in 1953. Then his mind wandered in a bourbon infused fog. At that point he had something of a revelation. And Hobbes has something to do with it too…

The revelation was that many liberals of today genuinely believe that a Soviet/Socialist/Communist political system is a good thing. Now you are saying to yourself, “Self, how it is that my Maximum Leader is just realising this? Is he stupid?” Well, not exactly. You see, intellectually speaking your Maximum Leader has known that many liberals think this way. But there was something of a series of subtle connections that were made in that fog that made things clearer.

You see, your Maximum Leader, in his heart shares a belief espoused by ole Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes famously wrote that in a state of nature life was a war of all against all. His famous sound bite was that life in such a condition was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Now, Hobbes’s view of humanity is more nuanced than this. You can pick up his writings and read a few hundred pages and figure this out for yourself. But here is the rub. Ultimately Hobbes, and your Maximum Leader, believed that human nature is inherently egoistic. We want what we want. We want to do what we want to do. If we think we can get away with something to our advantage, without fear of reprisal, we will do it. To use religious terminology (because in this the religious and political are closely intertwined), man’s nature is fallen. As a being with a fallen nature, we need to be constrained. Constrained, in Hobbes’ mind, by an autocratic state. (At least this the the broad theme of Leviathan.) Please keep this in your mind…

Of course, on the other side of this equation (as it were) are those who prefer the state of nature described by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Man was a perfectible, noble, creature. The nature of man was not fallen, or sinful, or bad. Mankind was corrupted by society, but society could be reformed and likewise man will be reformed as a result. Of course, your Maximum Leader is oversimplifying here, but bear with him.

So, broadly speaking, Your Maximum Leader thinks we can all agree that the best (theoretical) type of government to live under would be an autocracy ruled over by a wise, just, and benevolent autocrat. The Philosopher-King of Plato’s musings as it were. A good, wise, just, and benevolent autocrat has the power to “get things done” as well as the restraint to “keep from going too far.” Just laws, just taxes, and justice in general would flow quickly and efficiently from the Philosopher-King at the head of such a state. Things would be good…

Of course, the problem with autocracies is that you aren’t always guaranteed a good autocrat. The odds of a bad one are better than the odds of a good one. This is especially true if you believe, as your Maximum Leader and Hobbes do, in the not-so-good nature of man. But let’s say, you fall more under the Rousseauian theory of mankind. Well, even then you know that you are bound to get a bad egg from time to time. No matter how well you educate and train an autocrat, sometimes you are going to get a bad one. But if you give autocratic power to a bunch of perfectible people. People who are well-trained, well-experienced, and well-educated. Well then, that is a different story…

This is the root of the liberal’s love of technocracy. If mankind is perfectible and generally good, if you give power to right group of technocrats you will get a good outcome. If it doesn’t work out, it is because the “true formula” hasn’t really been tried. Ah… The ole “true socialism has never been tried trope!” Yes. Of course it all comes back to a fervent starting principal. If man is good it is all bound to work out! We just have had the wrong people in place…

Your Maximum Leader, in thinking all this, was musing on a column that Paul Krugman wrote some years ago (and he can’t find on the Google with ease and has given up with trying to link it) in which Krugman waxed admiration on the Chinese Communist government. In his musings, your Maximum Leader thought to himself that if you could look past the human rights abuses, the lack of personal freedoms, the rampant corruption, and the cronyism, there is a lot to like with the style of Chinese Communist rule from Deng Ziaoping through Hu Jintao. The Chinese Communist Politburo was populated by well-educated, experienced technocrats. These technocrats had well-constructed plans for moving their country ahead. They executed those plans (without any hindrance to their power). And presto-chango! China is the second greatest power in the world (and some could argue they are tied for the greatest power in the world). The Chinese Communist leaders are like half a loaf of bread in the argument about Socialism. They get so much right that they are admired, but there is that unsightly side. (All that lack of human rights, corruption, etc. etc.) It is like they are a beta version that just needs some more work.

You see, your Maximum Leader never really “saw” this aspect of how many liberals choose to look at socialism. He couldn’t get past his starting point, namely that humanity is not inherently good or truly perfectible. If you can’t get past that point, you’ll never get to where they are… Of course, your Maximum Leader likes freedom and liberty. He likes republican (truly little “r” republican) government. He likes restraint on government power. He likes it all because he doesn’t fully trust other people’s nature. We (humanity/mankind if you like) constrain our nature within society. We set up institutions and rules to constrain ourselves and others. It makes life better when we have boundaries and constrains, but also have the liberty to act as our own free-will agents.

It is possible that, at some point in the growing ever more distant past, he had this revelation before. But it seemed pretty enlightening the other night. It is possible that he’s never really tried to understand the whole “true Socialism” or “true Communism” hasn’t been tried argument. It’s never been tried, because it isn’t possible for it to be tried. If the nature of man is not predisposed towards it working, true Socialism/Communism just can’t ever work. Of course, many people don’t think as I do. So there is that.

Your Maximum Leader isn’t going to round them up and send them out for re-education or anything…

Carry on.

Twitter Musings

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader engaged in a little Twittering this weekend, to an unexpected result. You see, Democrat Presidential wanna-be Pete Buttigieg tweeted that “You don’t refer to people as animals.” This comment was in reference to our President’s old comments concerning the gang MS-13. The President called the members of the gang animals. Many on the left (or among anti-Trumpers) concurred with Buttigieg’s tweet. Frankly, your Maximum Leader agrees with the broad sentiment of his tweet. One shouldn’t call people animals. Civil discourse suffers with name-calling. It is much too common in what passes for discourse nowadays.

Then again, some people do deserve to be called animals. If anything, some people are worse than animals and have, through their own actions, forfeited the “right” to not be name-called. Some of the people that deserve to be called animals are the members of the MS-13 gang that (allegedly) perpetrated a terrible murder. A terrible murder that your Maximum Leader has the most tangential connection to - thanks to a twist of geography.

According to news reports, Jacson Chicas, was a former member of the MS-13 gang. He tried to leave the gang. Members of the gang hunted him down. Then they murdered him. They stabbed him nearly 100 times. Then they took his body from Maryland (the site of the crime) to my home county and they dumped the body along the Rappahannock River, doused it with gas and lit it aflame. Here is a short piece from NBC 4 in Washington. The body was so badly desecrated that police had to release a photo of Chicas’ arm, which had a distinctive tattoo, in order to help identify the body. (The rumor around town is that Chicas’ face was badly mutilated and couldn’t be identified. But it is, one hopes, only a rumor.)

Your Maximum Leader’s connection to this was that he had to get up early the morning that the body was discovered to run an errand. After he woke, he got a text from the Stafford County Sheriff’s Department. (He is on the County text alert system. It tells him all about road closures, bad weather, school closings, police chases, water main breaks… You know, the good stuff.) The text said that River Road was closed due to a police investigation. Your Maximum Leader suspected the investigation was related to a car accident. So, rather than going down River Road, he drove along a different route. A route that put him on the other side of the Rappahannock River from the crime scene. As he drove by he saw cars from the Sheriff’s Department. A few State Trooper cruisers. He also saw what he suspects was a big crime scene investigation van. He also saw a large white sheet over what he suspected was the victim’s body.

That is it. That is the extent of his connection… Geography and a glance at a crime scene…

Anyhoo…

Back to Twitter… Someone responded to Buttigieg’s tweet by citing a news article about this MS-13 murder and said that the people who committed this crime were, indeed, animals. Your Maximum Leader responded to that by tweeting that the body was dumped near his home and that he saw the crime scene. He added that the crime was barbaric.

Well… That Tweet has been retweeted, liked, forwarded, and responded to in ways your Maximum Leader is not used to seeing. You see, he doesn’t have many followers. He isn’t really working hard to gain lots more. But that one tweet seems to have made more than 28,000 impressions. He doesn’t know how twitter calculates these things, but he is certain that this tweet gets a lot more eyeballs looking at it than most of what he tweets. It is the reactions that intrigue him. The way responses line up completely on ideological lines. Party lines really. The discussions has devolved to the absolutes. You either think people can be called animals or you don’t. There is no room for nuance. Where are the sensible people who realise that one can’t call anyone an animal, but some people certainly deserve it.

Certainly 5 people who stab a 16 year old about 100 times, then set his body aflame can be called animals? A person who disagrees with a political stance I espouse ought not to be called an animal (or a Nazi for that matter).

It seems your Maximum Leader is out of touch with the times in which he lives.

Carry on.

Classifications

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was musing the other day about Democratic Congressman and Wunderkinder Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He wasn’t just musing about her lovely complexion, ample bosom, but over-large teeth either. He was thinking about her as a political phenomena of our day. He wondered how, other than her general good looks - which don’t hurt when gaining celebrity, she became such a spokesman for the Democratic Party. Here a 29 years old woman, elected by about 100,000 voters in liberal Brooklyn, New York, seems to have become one of the standard bearers for her party. All that and she is a spokesman for what your Maximum Leader thinks of as the far left-wing element of her party.

Then he started to think back to his youth during the bad ole days of the Cold War. Then something came to him. Was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez an apparatchik or a nomenklatura? He posted this, mostly rhetorical, question on the ole Tweety-box. (Your Maximum Leader’s handle by the by is @maximumleader.) One of your Maximum Leader’s tweeps (@arethusaf) suggested that she wasn’t detail oriented enough to be an apparatchik, and that she was certainly now, by virtue of her position, a nomenklatura.

NB: Any of you out there who might stumble across this post would likely know what apparatchiks and nomenklatura are. But in case you don’t here are the wiki definitions. Apparatchik. Nomenklatura. They will suit our purposes here tonight.

So back to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Apparatchik or nomenklatura. Your Maximum Leader agrees with Arethusa that by virtue of her position in Congress she is certainly a member of the Democratic nomenklatura. But she evinces, in your Maximum Leader’s eyes, many of the qualities of an apparatchik. He says this because she is a good reciter of the “party line.” She knows all the lines, everything she should say about all the hot-button issues for the Democratic constituency. You know them: the environment, health care, the environment some more, equal justice, equal pay, the environment even more, and a highly idealised and mostly imagined democratic-socialism of the Nordic type. She knows what to say on these subjects, how to say it, and more importantly how to communicate in Tweet-length soundbites.

NB: Your Maximum Leader wishes we would get legit soundbites. Remember them? People of a certain age remember lamenting the popularisation of the soundbite. Oh how, as a younger man, your Maximum Leader mused “What happened to the American attention span? When did we stop being able to listen to a person for more than 3 minutes? When did we lose the ability to concentrate for over 15 minutes at a time? Why must we be subjected to a 2-3 minute soundbite that doesn’t really give us any information or nuance?” The soundbite was the king of newsworthy statements in the late 80’s and 90’s. Now we don’t even get the soundbite. It is all tweet-length nowadays. If you are lucky you get the Twitter version of the soundbite - the thread… Pretty soon we’ll only understand emojis.

Actually, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ability to tweet is likely as responsible for her meteoric rise in her party as much as her beating Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary in her district (NY - 14). She is a mirror image of our President when it comes to tweeting. To make an old Dungeons & Dragons analogy, Ocasio-Cortez is a Paladin on the Twitter and Donald Trump is the Anti-Paladin on the Twitter. She is on-point and always saying exactly what you think she will (if you are into predicting these things). He is wild and untamed and all over the place. They both are happy to bend the truth while tweeting, but Ocasio-Cortez’s “facts” are generally more popular than Trumps and she is largely immune (in the mainstream) from actual fact-checking. Unlike the President who is oft (and rightfully) fact-checked and exposed as a liar (which he is).

Anyhooo… Back to the classification…

Your Maximum Leader thinks that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a failed apparatchik that has stumbled into the nomenklatura by a happy confluence of events (not the least of which was the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States).

NB: Your Maximum Leader can’t imagine that he’s going to have to spend the rest of his life looking at Trump’s ugly mug on a placemat depicting all the Presidents of the United States. Your Maximum Leader might have to swear off Presidential placemats in favor of Civil War generals, the States, or world flags placemats.

Ocasio-Cortez isn’t a bureaucratic functionary. She doesn’t have the talent for details (at least not that your Maximum Leader can observe). But she knows the party line, and that will get her far. It already has gotten her far. Your Maximum Leader wagers that she will serve in Congress long enough to receive a full pension. Ocasio-Cortez will likely be with us (at least those of us who follow politics to some degree) for some time. Your Maximum Leader hopes she’ll at least be entertaining for some of that time. He does not wish, however, that she will be particularly successful and implementing that which she so easily professes on the Twitter.

Carry on.

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