Happy Christmas.

Greetings, loyal minions. Happy Yuletide greetings to you all from your Maximum Leader ensconced in the Villainschloss. He hopes that you all have a wonderful Christmas, no matter how you choose to celebrate (or not celebrate) it. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure if he will make it to Mass. His church is still operating at greatly reduced capacity and your Maximum Leader sometimes feels strange by going alone and potentially keeping out a family that needs to occupy more space than he does. His church actually puts 6.5 foot long pool noodles between groups in a pew (and only uses every other pew in the church). Since the pandemic began, and the churches reopened, your Maximum Leader has often be seated in a small corner with other “singles” so as to maximize space for others. If one doesn’t get to Mass early one doesn’t always get a seat. (Even at the 1st Mass of the day at 7am.) Since the Bishop has made Mass attendance optional during the pandemic, your Maximum Leader hasn’t gone often. If he’s being honest with you all here, he’s only been to Mass 4-6 times since March. (For what it is worth, Mrs. Villain - who is not Catholic and doesn’t attend Mass with your Maximum Leader - hasn’t been to church since March!) Your Maximum Leader will confess to you all that not going to Mass regularly is not good for his soul or his general well-being. It is something he needs to work on in this new liturgical year.

Anyhoo…

Here is the Adoration by El Greco for your viewing pleasure.
adorationbyelgrecolg1.jpg

May your holiday be merry and bright.

And by merry he means drenched in alcohol. The drinking type, not the disinfecting type - in case you needed clarification.

Carry on.

My Gallant Hero

Greetings, loyal minions. Many years ago, your Maximum Leader bought a book with audio tapes that purported to help one Learn Scots Gaelic.

Now, if you knew your Maximum Leader you would know that he has no talent for languages at all. And if you know anything about Scots Gaelic, or Irish Gaelic, or any of the Gaelic tongues is that they don’t just come easy. So the prospect of him learning any Gaelic at all was laughable to say the least.

All that being said, there is something about the language that rings in your Maximum Leader’s ear. He particularly loves listening to it being sung. The Irish seem to be doing more to preserve this tradition of sung Gaelic than do the Scots. Your Maximum Leader discovered many moons ago the Choral Scholars of University College Dublin. He loves listening to them. He particularly loves their version of one of his favorite songs of all time, Mo Ghille Mear.

Here it is for your viewing and listening pleasure:

In case you are curious as to what they might be singing here is another video with the lyrics in Gaelic and English.

Your Maximum Leader included this one in hopes that his best buddy Kevin, might look at the lyrics and smile. At some point your Maximum Leader and Kevin had a conversation whereby Kevin was bemused by how Gaelic words are written versus how they are pronounced.

And lest we go before he mentions it, your Maximum Leader’s personal favorite version of the song might be this one by The Chieftains and Sting:

When the Villainettes were little, we would sing this version of the song together in the car. The girls could never remember (or pronounce) Mo Ghille Mear so they called the song “The Scottish King Who Went Away.” As the Chieftains/Sting version is closer to an 18th Century version lamenting the fleeing of Bonnie Prince Charlie across the sea.

Good memories…

Carry on.

If I Had a Million Dollars

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes he had a boatload of cash so that he could spend some of it on this painting.WSC painting of Johnny Walker

Yes. He would surely bid on this little piece by none other than Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill. It apparently goes on the block tomorrow.

Here is the article: Churchill’s painting of favourite whisky goes on sale.

Carry on.

Primetime Arguments

Greetings, loyal minions.

Your Maximum Leader started on the bourbon at about 7pm last night, knowing that the Presidential “debate” started at 9pm. He’s a little embarrassed to admit it, but he was about 6 oz of 100 proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon in by 9pm.

What a shitshow. It was terrible. Absolutely terrible. It was probably the worst “debate” your Maximum Leader has seen in his lifetime. (And your Maximum Leader remembers the Carter/Reagan debates of 1980. So that is a while now…)

He turned it off after about 45 minutes. He really isn’t sure when he turned it off because time had lost all meaning after a few minutes of whatever that was on his television.

So your Maximum Leader put on this gem and cozied up to Mrs. Villain hoping it would put her in the mood.

Sadly, this didn’t do the trick… Mrs. Villain wasn’t impressed. Not even by the guy at 2:30 in the video.

Sadness.

Carry on.

Anima Veneziana

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that an organization, Anima Veneziana is crowdfunding a film about Venice, by Venetians. Any reader of this space knows of your Maximum Leader’s unrequited love of Venice. If he could only go one place in the world before he dies, Venice would be that place.

Your Maximum Leader learned of this project via a piece in Forbes, Venice Is More Than Flooding and Overtourism. The piece opens thusly:

Blighted, decadent, doomed, Venice is often spoken of only in terms of its turbulent relationship with the sea and its museumification by overtourism. A new film, made by Venetians about Venetians, is hoping to change Venice’s international image by bringing to the fore the city’s residents and their lives.

“It was a project born from the dark days under lockdown,” says Monica Cesarato, a local food blogger who developed the idea for the Anima Veneziana film. The short film will follow a day in the life of Venice, “where all categories of its citizens will appear,” she says.

“It stems from the desire to change the narrative of the city, plagued by the stories of its umpteenth death after high water and the closure during COVID-19,” explains Cesarato. One of the worst periods of flooding in Venice’s history hit the city in November, prompting a stream of dramatic images in the international media.

Your Maximum Leader loves that. Blighted, decadent, and doomed. Perhaps those words do best to summarize why your Maximum Leader loves the idea of Venice so much. If he can spare a few bucks (Euros) he might help fund this film.

Carry on.

Vaccines

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been limiting his intake of news lately. It really doesn’t seem to be hurting him intellectually, psychologically, or emotionally. In fact, he’d say that he’s generally feeling better for having reduced his news intake. In “reducing his news intake” he doesn’t just mean news from traditional news sources (TV and newspaper) but also that which he consumes via the interwebs (Twitter, Facebook, and other on-line sources). In these times, the news is just jumping from one outrage to another and with few exceptions it is best summarized.

There is an idea. The news should be summarized. Too much of what we consume as “news” is really commentary on news. This is the age-old problem of what constitutes “reporting.” Your Maximum Leader has long held that we should have more “reporters.” Namely those that research and subsequently report the facts of a new story as clearly as possible. We have lots of “journalists” nowadays. The journalist may do some reporting, but they do a fair amount of commentary as well. You don’t need to remind your Maximum Leader that even reporters (in the sense he just described) are providing some “commentary” by choosing what stories deserve to be reported. That is certainly true. But the journalist is really putting their reporting into the “context” that shapes a “story” they want to tell. There is an important, if sometimes subtle distinction.

Anyhoo…

There are some news stories that your Maximum Leader does digest in more detail than others. One of those subjects about which he is reading is work towards an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Your Maximum Leader is interested, as just about everyone else is, about knowing more about a COVID vaccine. But, he’s found his mind turning towards some pretty bleak outlooks. This may be influenced by a book he is reading (Plague Hospitals: Public Health for the City in Early Modern Venice). What bleak outlook you say? Well let him elaborate…

There are, and have been since this past April, a number of news pieces out there that focus on the relatively quick decline in the effectiveness of antibodies to COVID-19 in people that have recovered from COVID-19. This is to say (in case you’ve not seen or read one) that the natural immunity that a human gets from having suffered through a bout of COVID-19 seems to disappear relatively quickly when compared to other viruses. In most circumstances suffering through a virus can give immunity to that same virus for many years, or a lifetime in some cases. It appears as though that “immunity” to COVID-19 may last only a few months at most. This is a real problem if one was hoping to achieve “herd immunity.” That is the state where enough people have developed their immunity to a virus that the spread of the virus is greatly reduced. If one doesn’t have immunity to a virus for very long, it obviously doesn’t help in reducing the spread of a virus.

So your Maximum Leader heard on a podcast, or radio interview, some weeks ago a researcher from (he believes) Oxford University who said that there is significant data on COVID-19 that can lend itself to theorizing that not only is herd immunity unlikely, but finding an effective vaccine against COVID-19 is equally unlikely. Your Maximum Leader wishes that he’d noted down the researchers name and institution at the time, but he didn’t. Well… He found a piece in his news feed that struck a chord with him. Here is the piece (which originated at Business Insider): Coronavirus immunity can start to fade away within weeks, according to a new study which puts a ‘nail in the coffin’ in the idea of herd immunity. Here are some salient quotes about herd immunity:

Immunity to the coronavirus may disappear within months for many patients, according to a major new UK study which found that antibodies peaked three weeks after symptoms appeared, before gradually fading away.

For some patients, no antibodies were detected after just a few months, throwing doubt on hopes for a long-lasting vaccine.

[…]

The study, which was carried out by scientists at King’s College London and first reported by The Guardian, “puts another nail in the coffin of the dangerous concept of herd immunity,” one of its authors said.

The study was based on the antibody responses of 90 patients and health workers at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. It showed that 60% of those tested had “potent” antibodies while battling COVID-19, but just 17% had the same level of potency three months later.

The potency of the antibodies fell by as much as 23 times over the three months, the study found, and in some cases were undetectable at the end of that period of time.

[…]

A similar study in Spain, which was published last week, found that just 5% of people tested maintained coronavirus antibodies. Fourteen percent of people who tested positive for the antibodies in the first round of testing did not test positive in subsequent tests carried out weeks later.

Two of the Spanish study’s authors, Isabella Eckerle and Benjamin Meyer, said: “In light of these findings, any proposed approach to achieve herd immunity through natural infection is not only highly unethical, but also unachievable.”

It is important to note that the quoted article does state that the results of these studies have not yet been peer reviewed. The piece continues:

Katie Doores of King’s College London, the UK study’s lead author, said the findings could be a sign that any future vaccine for the coronavirus would need to be provided regularly for people to maintain immunity.

“People are producing a reasonable antibody response to the virus, but it’s waning over a short period of time and depending on how high your peak is, that determines how long the antibodies are staying around,” she said.

“Infection tends to give you the best-case scenario for an antibody response, so if your infection is giving you antibody levels that wane in two to three months, the vaccine will potentially do the same thing,” she added. “People may need boosting and one shot might not be sufficient.”

In an interview with Sky News reported by The Guardian, professor Robin Shattock of Imperial College London said that while reinfection would probably be “less severe” because of people retaining “immune memory,” the risk of them passing on the virus meant they would likely have to receive boosts of the vaccine on a regular basis.

“Ultimately this may require the use of annual boosting immunizations, particularly for the most vulnerable. This could be delivered alongside annual influenza immunizations,” he said.

Your Maximum Leader wonders if the researcher he heard on the radio or podcast was Katie Doores or Robin Shattock. Regardless of that, this caused your Maximum Leader to think a little harder in the vein in which his thoughts about COVID-19 had been progressing. Namely, what if an effective vaccine is not found? Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure about you, but he isn’t sure that a vaccine that only lasts 2-3 months is all that effective. On the one hand, 2-3 months of immunity is about the length of a flu season. But so far we are seeing that COVID-19 doesn’t seem to have a “season.” It appears to like all the times of the year. So it may not a question of getting your “flu shot” annually, but getting it quarterly. That doesn’t seem very good, at least not when you start to wonder about where your Maximum Leader’s mind went next.

Suppose any potential COVID-19 vaccine IS only effective for 2-3 months. And let’s further suppose that it has no side effects. And let’s further suppose that it is cheap and available in sufficient quantities so as to allow anyone who wants one to get one. It this going to be enough to satisfy people that “life” and economic activity can resume and become “normal?” Given how polarizing and hysterical people are right now, he can’t envision a situation where this sort of vaccine is going to be regarded as a significant improvement. What happens then? Do schools continue to be (effectively) closed? Will prisoners be released because jail is too dangerous? Will restaurants, gyms, and sporting events have to operate at minimal levels? What about anti-vaccers?

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t have answers. Further, he is not bothered too much by things out of his control at this point. This is more a mental exercise more than anything. Your Maximum Leader wonders if someone, somewhere is thinking about this and trying to plan… Someone at the CDC? The Department of Health and Human Services? The Pentagon? He doesn’t know.

What he does know is that if the past 4 months have been any indication, the shit-show will get shittier.

Carry on.

Wasting time.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was taking care of some financial matters tonight and thought that when he was finished with them he would try to finish a post about reopening America that he’s been writing in fits and starts. Well… That didn’t happen. Instead he wound up spending time listening to some John Prine and Emmylou Harris. So here is some of that to which he was listening.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader thinks that Emmylou Harris grown more beautiful as she’s grown older.)

Some John Prine:
Dear Abby:

Jesus the Missing Years:

In Spite of Ourselves:

And the last song from his last album, When I get to Heaven:

Now some Emmylou:

Emmylou with Dolly and Linda singing the Sweetest Gift:

More of Emmylou and others (Allison Krauss & Jillian Welch) singing Go To Sleep Little Baby:

Emmylou singing Pancho & Lefty:

And one of my favorites, Red Dirt Girl:

It wasn’t all Prine and Harris though…

This Mark Knopfler song snuck into the mix as well:

And he listened to this tribute to Emmylou that he’s liked for quite a while:

Carry on.

Who are your people?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was going to try and finish a post about opening versus not opening our economy in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. (NB: Is it Covid-19 or COVID-19? Your Maximum Leader thinks it should be in all caps, but he doesn’t want to hit and hold that shift or caps lock key. Lazy fingering.) But, he read David French’s column today and decided to write about it instead.

Many moons ago, when your Maximum Leader was in college, he was at a party. It wasn’t a college party with kegs, togas, and lots of grinding on a dance floor tacky with spilt beer. It was a real dinner party with grown adults. Men wore sports jackets and ties (at a minimum). Women wore dresses. Before dinner there were hors d’oeuvres on silver trays walked through the room by servers my age (my age back then anyway). There were cocktails with top shelf booze. Then for dinner you sat at a table where one needed to know which fork was for which course as well as which was a white wine glass and which a red wine glass. Your Maximum Leader was seated next to an aged lady from Richmond, VA. She had that wonderful Tidewater Virginia accent as she spoke. We engaged in friendly conversation through much of the dinner. At one point your Maximum Leader said something that made her laugh. When she stopped laughing she looked at him with a most serious expression and said, “You are such a delightful boy.” She continued, “I must know, who are your people?”

Your Maximum Leader must admit that he’d never been asked that question ever before. He stumbled for a moment and said, “My people? I’m an American from Virginia, like you ma’am.” Then she clarified, “No who are your people? Who are you descended from? I’m a Byrd myself.” Then your Maximum Leader got it. He replied that “his people” were nobodies from Scotland and England who settled in America like many others. (And didn’t move to Virginia until during/after World War II.) This disappointed her somewhat, but not enough to stop talking with him. It seems many in the room were descended from someone of note. (In case you were wondering, it was a dinner party for the Virginia Historical Society… About 1989 or so.)

That little anecdote came do him today when thinking about David French’s piece. French wasn’t writing about ancestry in general, though his ancestry is part of the essay. He was talking about tribes. Political tribes. Religious tribes. The confluence of the tribes of religion and politics. He was also writing about group think and confirmation bias. Here is a particularly salient bit when explaining “group polarization”:

The concept comes from a Cass Sunstein academic paper, published all the way back in 1999. Surveying the relevant social science, Sunstein said, “[I]n a striking empirical regularity, deliberation tends to move groups, and the individuals who compose them, toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own predeliberation judgments.”

In plain English, this means that when like-minded people gather, their views get more extreme. Our arguments reinforce one another to such an extent that the entire group will sometimes become more extreme than the most extreme person at the start of the deliberation. Think of it like this—when gun rights advocates (or gun control activists) gather, do they tend to leave the meeting doubting their positions or redoubled in their commitment to advocacy? How many people leave a good Bible study loving Jesus less?

It’s a nonpartisan, human phenomenon, and what’s so seductive about it is the fact that we can’t perceive the sheer tribalism because it’s accompanied by deliberation—by discussion and thought. We fool ourselves into believing our ideas or our intellects are in control when it is often our identity or our history.

This doesn’t mean that group deliberation is always wrong. A collection of abolitionists who met and grew in dedication to the abolitionist cause in Boston in 1860 were right. Unquestionably they were right. But what it does mean is that like-minded group deliberation is suspect, and it can be suspect even in a righteous cause. “The ends justifies the means” is a concept born in unanimity and fervor.

This passage, and French’s whole column actually, caused me to shiver. Shiver due to self-actualization. French writes about his Confederate ancestors taking up arms to defend slavery and he asks himself while he acknowledges the guilt he sometimes feels about his ancestry:

I don’t mean that in a guilty way, I’m somehow responsible for the actions of men who took up arms for an unjust cause more than a century before I was born. Instead, I mean that I’ve often asked myself, “What would I have done?”

Slavery was a monstrous evil. Yet generations of Americans grew up in communities that accepted it, defended it, and even celebrated it. How many abolitionist arguments did a child of the antebellum South ever hear? If they heard abolitionist arguments, did they hear them portrayed fairly, accurately, and sympathetically?

Putting aside the power of argument, did the witness of their own eyes and ears—the brutality that was plainly before them—provide them with sufficient cause to say, “No. I shall not defend such evil”?

That was the specific passage that caused your Maximum Leader to shiver. Often he finds himself asking silently, “what if things were different for me?” Your Maximum Leader recalls with vivid clarity the day he was sitting in a high school history class during a discussion of the Cold War (which was still ongoing at that point). Your Maximum Leader, a Reagan conservative then (and now he thinks - but then was actually during the Reagan Presidency), gave a rather rote recitation of why the USSR was in fact an “evil empire” and needed to be opposed. A dear and close friend, a friend then and now, made a glib remark that “Sure, you’re a good conservative here, but if you’d been born in the USSR you would be in the Young Communist League and be working to get your Order of Lenin before you graduate from college.” At the time the comment shocked your Maximum Leader. He actually took offense to it then. But even way back then (in 1986 or so) a seed was planted. Ever since then your Maximum Leader has taken more time than he cares to relate to you all wondering if his beliefs and biases are an accident of birth and the groups with which he affiliates himself, or if they are due to him actually reasoning out a belief system in which he actually believes.

If your Maximum Leader is being honest with you all, he feels about 60% of the time he has formed a belief system based on his reading, understanding, and assimilation of the ideas of numerous other smarter people than himself. But 40% of the time he does think it is all just an accident of birth.

So your Maximum Leader asks those of you who may still be reading (or may stumble across) this humble - and moribund - weblog to ask yourself this question, “Who are your people?” But don’t think about your ancestry, as Mrs. Byrd did. Think about the broader tribe to which you belong. Think long and hard about who are your people in life. With whom do you associate? Who do you follow on Twitter? Who are your Facebook friends? Who do you go out to lunch with? With whom do you really talk about meaningful things? Then think about what they might have in common and how that commonality is intensified in you. How that commonality is actually polarization causing you to be less open and responsive to others. Try to give “the other side” a kind thought, or at least an open-minded review, from time to time. We live in an age and time which is becoming more polarized. Your Maximum Leader is keenly aware to many those who don’t share their views are misguided, or wrong, or even evil and must be stopped. But consider their views openly, then examine your own with a jaundiced eye from time to time and be open to revelatory ideas.

Be aware of the tribe to which you belong, and recall David French’s words: “The tidal pull of tribalism should humble us all. For many of us, it renders our virtue an accident of history and birth. For others, it gives our sin and vice a terrible momentum that’s so very hard to reverse.” Try to be self-aware of your own sins and strive to overcome them.

Carry on.

PS: And speaking of who you follow on Twitter, follow your Maximum Leader.

PPS: And in case this was a little heavy, here is some related humorous perspective on this post.

Flu Fear

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will remind readers of his (generally) annual trip to the pork capital of Virginia to buy his Easter ham. Last weekend was the glorious Hamquest. (Your Maximum Leader thinks he should hashtag and trademark “Hamquest” lest some lesser mortal try to muscle in on the term.)

Last Saturday your Maximum Leader roused Mrs. Villain, Villainette #2, and the foreign exchange student he is hosting - who we will call FE - from their slumbers to get into the car and head to Smithfield, VA. Smithfield is the home of Smithfield Foods one of the largest pork processors in the world. It also has a 350+ year tradition of producing country hams. Your Maximum Leader took his intrepid band down to Jamestown, VA and caught the ferry to Scotland, VA. From there he proceeded to Surry, then on to Smithfield. He initially bypassed the town to head directly to his ham provider of choice, Darden’s Country Store.

On arriving at Darden’s your Maximum Leader’s party got a treat. You see, last weekend was the weekend that they pack the new hams in the smokehouse. To describe this process for your benefit, before last Saturday, the extended Darden clan had taken the remaining hams from last year (about 30 or so) and placed them in a temporary storage unit they had next to the smokehouse. In another temporary storage unit (which was actually an old shipping container) they had started the process of curing this year’s hams. They had covered the floor of the container with salt then started stacking the fresh hams in the salt. When one layer was down, they cover the layer in salt. Then they add another layer. Then salt the new layer. And so on until they had over 1300 hams packed in salt. They remained in the salt for 2-3 weeks. On the day we arrived, they were taking the hams out of the salt, wiping them off lightly with a dry towel, and then covering them in pepper. Once the salted hams had been peppered, they were hung in the rafters of the smokehouse. They will hang to dry for another week. Then they will be smoked. The smoldering fire will be built and tended for 7-10 days. Day and night the smoke will cover the hams. At the end of 7-10 days the hams are fully cured and then they just age. Your Maximum Leader, as he noted, got one of last year’s hams. So his has aged for over a year. Aging adds more saltiness to the ham and requires more water before cooking. Once a ham is cured it can last years. In fact, the longest your Maximum Leader has kept a cured country ham is 6 years. He didn’t mean to keep the ham that long. He bought one, hung it in the basement. Forgot about the ham. Bought another and prepared it. And the ham sat in a back corner of the basement (of his parents house actually) for 6 years until his mother moved a shelf and saw it. She was going to throw it away, but your Maximum Leader forbade it and prepared the ham shortly after its rediscovery. It was delicious by the way.

Anyhoo… Your Maximum Leader selected a lovely 22 pound ham and paid for it.

While your Maximum Leader was waiting for the ham to be wrapped, he introduced FE to Mr. Darden and explained how FE was an exchange student from China and how we were showing him bits of America you don’t see by visiting New York or DC. Mr. Darden and FE spoke a bit about the Chinese love of pork and how much pork Smithfield Foods exported to China. (In fact, Smithfield Foods it largely owned by the Chinese national investment trust or some such thing. Perhaps that is a post for another day.) So we had a lovely time with the Dardens. We got the ham and went into town to our favorite restaurant, Smithfield Station for lunch.

For lunch your Maximum Leader had the “Smithfield chowder” and the “Station burger.” The chowder was a thin clear broth with potatoes, onion, celery, country bacon (think country ham, but bacon) and chopped clams. It was quite tasty. The burger was a 1/4 pound aged angus burger, with a healthy slice of country ham, 2 slices of country bacon, cheddar cheese, a generous helping of lump crab meat, with chopped purple onion, lettuce, and tomato on a grilled Hawaiian bun. It was really something else. Mrs. Villain had the creamy crab soup, and fish tacos. Villainette #2 had crab soup and and a grilled chicken dish (with country ham as a compliment to the chicken). FE had the crab soup as well and the pork BBQ sandwich.

We had a lovely lunch, and then went to walk through town…

Now, your Maximum Leader has visited Smithfield many many times (pretty much annually) and has always had a wonderful time and found a way to chat with the lovely people of the town. He was proceeding to do so during this visit. He would introduce himself and explain that we were visiting for ham and to show FE parts of America and American life. After our second stop Mrs. Villain took your Maximum Leader aside and said that he shouldn’t mention that FE was from China. You see, she had observed that after mentioning that FE was an exchange student from China a few people we encountered stepped back and were considerably more restrained than they were before that bit of information was exchanged.

So your Maximum Leader said that he would refrain from sharing that bit of information. But, it came up again at some of our other stops. Only this time FE himself mentioned that he was from China. Your Maximum Leader observed that people did seem to change their body language very subtly after that information was exchanged. Furthermore, if your Maximum Leader offered up that FE had been studying in the US for four years in an attempt to reassure people that he wasn’t a walking viral infection fresh from Wuhan, people didn’t change their posture towards him.

All in all it made me a little sad. FE did go to visit his family in China over Christmas break. But he returned before anyone had heard of the Covid-19 virus. He is, as is the whole family here, clear and feeling fine. But you show some people anyone from China (a large country with a population of over a billion people) and they get all squirmy and fearful that they are going to die from the flu. It was a bit disappointing to see in fact. It made your Maximum Leader more than a little sad in fact.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader isn’t going to let this stop him from continuing to take FE out to see this great nation and learn more about America and Americans.

Carry on.

Wednesday Randoms

Greetings, loyal minions. You Maximum Leader has been falling down on the proverbial blogging job and not updating. (After a spate of erratic updates… If it can be called a spate…) Here are some random thoughts.

Twitter is a real hellhole. That doesn’t prevent your Maximum Leader from hanging out there. (@maximumleader, check him out!) There are a few people out there with whom your Maximum Leader likes to engage. That is the miracle of social media in general. He doesn’t leave the platform precisely because of those people that he’s “met” virtually and genuinely likes. But some days Twitter is just terrible. For example, last week when David Koch died. So many progressives/leftist/Democrats/Communists/Socialist/whatever-they-call-themselves were tripping over themselves to gleefully celebrate the death of a man. It was awful. Regardless of what you might think of someone’s politics and how they used their fortune to advance their beliefs (all within the bounds of the law and generally accepted behavior) one shouldn’t make merry at their death. Your Maximum Leader was sorely tempted to ask how they would react to a conservative/rightist/Republican/fascist/nationalist/what-ever-the-other-side-calls-themselves dancing on the grave of someone like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should she have passed. (NB: Your Maximum Leader, while not agreeing with RBG on many items, bears her no ill-will and hopes she recovers fully from her recent surgery and is able to fully return to her duties at the Court. Your Maximum Leader isn’t advocating she retire. She’ll retire when she is ready. Or she’ll never retire and die on the bench like her friend, and political opposite, the late Antonin Scalia. That is her prerogative.) Of course, some did make this observation on Twitter and your Maximum Leader did not. There is no point. You can’t stop the Twitter mob and there is very little point to trying to do so.

General update on domestic situation. Our exchange student is fitting in generally well at the Villainschloss. He is picking up chores and the routine. Your Maximum Leader is figuring out how much parentis he can exercise in the ole concept of in loco parentis. We are still working on the details of supervision. We had some missteps (in your Maximum Leader’s opinion) over how our student (we’ll call him “J”) chose to change sports teams over the weekend. J didn’t give proper notice to the coaches of both teams. Your Maximum Leader has encouraged him to take some steps today to smooth things over with the coach who’s team J departed without notice or discussion. This can be a problem at a small private school. One has to maintain good relationships all around. Communication is the key. In addition to the sports situation, your Maximum Leader is apparently the proofreader/editor of J’s essays. This is something of a surprise as your Maximum Leader has the reputation in the house of being a hardass editor and “mean” proofreader of papers. (Villainette #1 didn’t come to him for help until well into her Senior year of HS. The Wee Villain will not come to him at all. Villainette #2 is thick skinned and will sometimes ask for editing services. But her writing is clear and technical - she is studying mechanical engineering after all - and doesn’t need much editing.) Your Maximum Leader has written a few emails to J’s teachers to get guidance on what type of help he should, and should not, give J. One teacher has responded already with a number of very helpful suggestions which your Maximum Leader will implement. These include making sure J reads his essays aloud to make sure he’s gotten all his words down, using Google docs to exchange drafts, and point out problems (tense, subject/verb agreement, run-on sentences, etc.) and have him make corrections then do it again. All good common sense advice. So there is that.

Also domestically, your Maximum Leader has been spending inordinate amounts of time thinking about trains and railroads. He has spent many hours (yes, hours) watching live cams of various rail road sites. His favorites include: Strasburg RR Cam 1, Strasburg RR Cam 2, Ashland, VA CAM, and the Horseshoe Curve in Pennsylvania. He is becoming a fat, middle-aged, white, male, railfan it seems. Well… It keeps him off the streets and out of jail…

Carry on.

La France

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been thinking a lot about France recently. You may believe that his ruminations on France began with the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and on the kosher grocery store in Paris. But you’d be wrong. Your Maximum Leader was thinking about France over the Christmas holiday. He’s been listening to a very good podcast on the French Revolution – as well as taking time to glance through some of the (sadly too few) books on French history he owns.

Part of what your Maximum Leader has been thinking about is how to work out his own feelings towards the French Republic…

As anyone who has spent any time with your Maximum Leader (or any time on this blog over the years) knows, he is not what one would call a Francophile. But, he’s not a Francophobe either. He’s viewed his own feelings towards France with mixed emotions over his life. Your Maximum Leader has not traveled to France, so will likely have some bearing on his feelings at some point but he should list off a few items for your consideration. Your Maximum Leader appreciates and loves many elements of French culture. He would be a liar if he didn’t say he loves French food (both “high” French and “Provençal” and “low” French food. He loves a lot of French art. (Like anyone, he likes some movements and not others.) And he loves the idea of the French lifestyle that is mostly stereotypically imagined by Americans and exists to a lesser extent every year in France. (You know what he’s talking about here. Going to the bakery for bread every day. Sitting and having an afternoon break at a café. Leisurely early evening meals, home cooked, around a big table with family.) Frankly, any your Maximum Leader might be an exception here, he’s never met and interacted with a French citizen that he didn’t like. (As an aside, your Maximum Leader doesn’t have many regrets about his college years; but one minor regret his has is not asking a French exchange student who attended his college out on a date. Long story, if you’re interested write him and he’ll tell you all about it…)

At the same time that your Maximum Leader has all of this good will built up on behalf of France, he also has some ill will. Or if not ill will, certainly less than positive will. Your Maximum Leader has mocked the French as “cheese eating surrender monkeys.” Of course that appellation isn’t completely fair, even in the context of World War II, if one understands the times in which France was surrendering… And he’s been annoyed by French foreign policy more times than he can remember. (The first one he can recall was Francois Mitterand refusing to let US bombers over-fly France to go after Quaddaffi in Libya back in the Reagan years… That is the first of many…) Your Maximum Leader thinks that institutions dedicated to the preservation of “true” French culture and language are sort of silly. (He’s looking at you Academie Francaise.)

So basically, your Maximum Leader loves “the French” but doesn’t always love “France.” He’s sure that many Frenchmen would say the same (or much the same) about “the United States of America” and “Americans.”

Then your Maximum Leader had an epiphany. A true a ha moment.

France is our beloved first cousin who always annoys the crap out of us.

Yup. That is it. Your Maximum Leader’s “France is the USA’s first cousin” political theory.

Hear him out on this.

Are you close with your first cousins? Your Maximum Leader means really close. Like you grew up in the same town. You see each other all the time, not just at the holidays. You go over to their house. They come to yours. You go on vacation together. You are always there with them. But, their upbringing isn’t quite the same. Though in the same town, you go to different schools. You get involved in different activities. Perhaps you go to different churches (or no church at all).

You are very similar, but in some very important ways very dissimilar. You might be a good kid and a conformer, but that cousin of yours just wants to buck the system when they can. You are a loyal boyfriend (or girlfriend) and your cousin is something of a playboy (Playgirl? “Playa?”) You do your homework all the time and get good grades, and your cousin is something of a slacker. You are serious, and your cousin is a clown. You love your cousin, you both get along and like to be together. But there are things your cousin does that are just a part of who they are – things they can’t change and don’t want to change; things that just annoy the shit out of you.

That is the Franco-American relationship.

Both nations are born of the Judeo-Christian Western tradition. Both were born in revolution. Both are constitutional republics that value liberty. And we both annoy the shit out of each other.

It annoys your Maximum Leader that the French want to be part of Europe, and part of NATO, and leaders in the world; but they have to do everything their way. Their way is one that often seems contrarian for the sake of being contrarian.

Your Maximum Leader has come to realize that the US needs France, and the world needs France. Your Maximum Leader would like nations to see the US as the ultimate leader on the side of history and civilization that favors individual liberty, individual rights and responsibilities, and equality for all under commonly determined law. But the world is not a simple place and many of the actors on the world scene, for some mad reason, don’t trust the US to be a fair actor. Perhaps this is a consequence of a cold war where everyone had to pick a side and stick to their side. During the Cold War, France did its best to present herself as a western alternative to both the US and USSR.

The more your Maximum Leader thinks on it, that Cold War role and how it has developed in the post-Cold War world is an important one. France is an important “pole” in the modern multi-polar world. If France gets on your Maximum Leader’s nerves from time to time, it is because they need to.

Anyhow… Those are some thoughts on France…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Musings on Scottish Independence

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

Your Maximum Leader is deeply conflicted on this question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Middle East Diatribing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syria is still fighting it out.

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

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

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

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

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

Guess what. That was a monumentally stupid fucking call.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

A quickie

Greetings, loyal minions. You Maximum Leader says something about a rebirth of his blog, and then takes a month off. What a lousy bastard your Maximum Leader can be…

Anyhoo…

Some quick thoughts for those of you who might be stopping in…

As some of you know, this is the year when your Maximum Leader’s home state, the great Commonwealth of Virginia, holds elections for statewide office. In all the years since he’s been eligible to vote, your Maximum Leader has generally been pleased enough (or even downright excited) by the quality of candidates for statewide office. He’s said it here before, all in all, he’s pleased with his state government. Well… The past few years his level of pleasure at his state government has decreased somewhat. But this year he must say without equivocation, the choices he has for statewide office are just terrible. Let him even go further. (Cover your eyes ye of low tolerance for bad language!) The choices he’s got for Governor suck big donkey dicks. Terry McAulliffe, the Democrat and former Clinton hack, is a miserable piece of shit. Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican and current Attorney General of VA, is a strident warrior in the culture wars who is a bit too strident for your Maximum Leader. Basically, your Maximum Leader can’t think of a pleasant thing to say about either man running for the chief executive office of his great Commonwealth. So as it is, he’ll be voting for Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for Governor. In the Lt Governor’s race your Maximum Leader will vote for Ralph Northam, a Democratic state senator and doctor, over Earl Jackson, a Republican and minister. Northam is a fairly liberal Democrat with whom your Maximum Leader doesn’t share many political views. Jackson is cut from a similar cloth as Ken Cuccinelli. Your Maximum Leader just can’t vote for him… And then there is the Attorney General’s race. Your Maximum Leader will vote, gladly, for Mark Obenshain, a Republican state senator and scion of a prominent Virginia political family, over Mark Herring, a Democratic state senator. Further down the ticket your Maximum Leader will continue to vote for (as he has in elections past) Bill Howell and Richard Stuart. Both are Republicans who represent your Maximum Leader. Howell is also Speaker of the House of Delegates and a very influential man in state government. Both Howell and Stuart are good people, which helps when casting a ballot. Further down the ticket… Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure for whom he’ll be voting for Supervisor and School Board member. He is leaning towards Meg Bohmke for Supervisor as she has been endorsed by many friends and acquaintances of your Maximum Leader. But endorsements aside, Bohmke has been on the School Board and hasn’t seemed to do too much in that role. So, there is trepidation in your Maximum Leader’s mind on this one. Your Maximum Leader will also vote for Scott Hirons for School Board. Mrs Villain taught the Hirons kids in school and thinks very highly of Scott.

So there it is… All your Maximum Leader’s endorsements for voting in Virginia this year… As if you all care…

In other news…

How about this Government shutdown? Well… A pox on all the Houses (and Senate and President). All share some level of blame for what is a bad situation. Your Maximum Leader firmly believes that there is a proper role for government. He also believes that government is a necessity for civilized society. The primary role of the government is to function and execute it’s role. Now your Maximum Leader takes a view towards very limited government at the federal level. He does believe that Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, or whatever the hell you want to call it is a bad idea, is poorly executed, and doesn’t make a lot of economic sense. But really… The law was passed. A few elections have occurred since passage. And the Supreme Court of the US has made initial pronouncements in favor of the law as enacted. Basically, that is a lot of “upholding” and not a lot “repealing.” The Tea Party faction of the Republican Caucus needs to get together and think of some other tactic on addressing this law. Shutting down the government isn’t the answer. Failing to raise the debt ceiling is not the answer. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t have high expectations for Congress. Indeed, they are very very low. But he does expect them to do ONE (and precisely 1) thing every year. That is to pass a budget. Even if the budget is “okay we’re just passing last year’s budget again without changes.” It is hard work, but it can be done. If you want a longer screed on this, send your Maximum Leader an email or tweet him (@maximumleader)

In more news…

At Professor Mondo’s suggestion your Maximum Leader has listened to a few episodes of Welcome to Night Vale. Your Maximum Leader can’t decide if he likes it or not. It is clever. But there is a quality to the narrator’s voice that puts off your Maximum Leader… He’ll probably keep listening for a while.

Like Robbo, your Maximum Leader didn’t blog much about his beloved Washington Nationals this year. He had high hopes for the team and did think they would make the playoffs. As we know that didn’t happen. Your Maximum Leader holds out high hopes for next year. He only wants his team to find a good manager and start winning. There is a lot of scuttlebutt about Cal Ripken Jr. being interested in the Nationals manager job. Your Maximum Leader pretty much agrees with Bos on Ripken for Nats manager.

Then there are the Washington Capitals… Your Maximum Leader’s hockey team are going to have a tough row to hoe to get to the playoffs in a newly minted “Metropolitan” Division in the Eastern Conference. He hopes it happens, but he wonders if the core of the team is getting a little old and the competition being a little too tough. He’ll be following closely how the season goes…

And finally… Your Maximum Leader would like to see the Los Angeles Dodger and the Boston Red Sox in the World Series… Then, being a National League guy, he would like to see the Dodgers win. But those Sox will be hard (VERY HARD in fact) to stop…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

So what’s been happening?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is sure that you are out there wondering exactly what he’s been up to since he doesn’t seem to be posting much any more….

Well… This has been a rather fun summer.

Your Maximum Leader was able to spend some time with family and take some nice day trips out to various Civil War battlefields and other National Parks around Virginia. He’s spent time trying to educate his family (by lecture and visit) about the US Civil War. He is doing this mostly because of the 150th anniversary of the conflict; not out of a great love of the period. Indeed, your Maximum Leader finds the Civil War one of the least interesting things about US history. The conflict was started to defend a bad institution. It’s outcome was a foregone conclusion; and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. Indeed, the most interesting thing about the war was that it lasted as long as it did. More competent generalship by the Union would have ended the war sooner.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader and his family did get up to Massachusetts and Rhode Island this summer as well. We visited family and various historical sites in both states. He did a lot of sight-seeing in Boston and Newport. Also, while in Rhode Island he had the somewhat sad task of burying his loving wife’s grandmother. As you might recall, “great nannie” died earlier this year at the age of 105. We arranged for a good time for as many of the family to get together to celebrate her life and to bury her in the family burying ground.

There is something comforting about the very phrase “family burying ground.” Great nannie is the latest of many generations to be laid to rest in a good-sized plot in Warwick, Rhode Island. Who knows, perhaps one day Mrs Villain and your Maximum Leader will end up there?

NB: What is interesting is that a few yards away from Mrs. Villain’s family burial plot is the plot of a number of people who share your Maximum Leader’s family name. That name is not a common one, so it was a little shocking to see so many gathered together in death in one place. Your Maximum Leader is unaware of a family connection between these people in Rhode Island and his own family (who hail from Pennsylvania actually); but there may be one. (He was asked at the funeral if he was related to the people buried there, to which he can only answer that he doesn’t know.) Also vaguely interesting is the fact that one of his maternal cousins is doing some genealogical research on that side of the family and is discovering what, for the 19th Century, seems to be a disproportionate number of college professors and murderers in the family. It seems that the men were either educated pillars of their communities, or desperate killers fleeing the law and responsibility.

Anyhoo… How about your Maximum Leader share some photos of his trip…

Lobstah Roll
A lobstah roll your Maximum Leader had upon arriving in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This is about 2-3 bites in.

Graves of British Soldiers at Concord
This is the grave of the British soldiers killed at the Old North Bridge in Concord, MA.

The Old North Bridge in Concord MA
Here is the Old North Bridge itself. Site of the “Shot Heard ’round the World.”

The Minuteman
Here is the statue of the Minuteman at the Old North Bridge.

Your Maximum Leader also spent some good time in Boston. Sadly, many of the photos there capture your Maximum Leader’s family - and in keeping with his long-standing tradition of not showing the members of his family… Most will not be shown here. But here are some others…

Boston from Fenway
Here is the Boston Skyline viewed from Fenway Park before batting practice.

Zen garden at Boston Museum of Fine Arts
The zen garden at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Santarpio’s pizza
A photo of some of the best pizza on the planet. It can be found at Santarpio’s in East Boston. Damn that stuff is good.

First Public School in US
If you walk the “Freedom Trail” you come upon this marker commemorating the location of the first public school in the nation. As your Maximum Leader believes that education is the only hope for civilization and democracy (and Mrs Villain is a teacher) this was a big deal for us to see.

Old Mass State House
Your Maximum Leader loves the contrast between old and new in this shot of the Old Massachusetts State House.

Old North Church
One if by land. Two if by sea. (And if you don’t know what your Maximum Leader is talking about, please stop now and google it.)

Old Ironsides
Old Ironsides. The oldest commissioned warship afloat. (NB: Your Maximum Leader will note that HMS Victory is the oldest commissioned warship in the world. Sadly, Nelson’s flagship is in drydock and not afloat…)

Now skipping on to Rhode Island…

Riverpoint Congregational Church, W Warwick RIThis is the Riverpoint Congregationalist Church in W. Warwick, Rhode Island. Mrs. Villain’s great-great-grandfather helped to found this church after the Civil War. It is where her Grandmother’s memorial service was held.

After the memorial service the whole family went to Point Judith and the town of Galliee. There we ate at George’s. George’s has been an institution since the ’40s and we always make it a point of going when we are anywhere nearby… Here are more gratuitous food shots…

George’s of Galliee, RI
Here is George’s…

Stuffed Lobstah
Here is the stuffed lobstah your Maximum Leader had for dinner. It is stuffed with shrimp and scallops and slathered in lobster bisque.

Maximum Leader eating
Here is your Maximum Leader stuffing his fat face with all of the stuffed lobstah. If you happen to go to George’s in the near future; you might see this photo on the wall as you go in.

Mrs. Villain & Wee Villain
Violating his rule (somewhat) here is a nice image of Mrs. Villain and the Wee Villain enjoying the sunset at Point Judith, RI and watching the Block Island Ferry head off from the port.

Marble House
While in Newport, RI, your Maximum Leader visited Marble House…

The Breakers
He also visited The Breakers…

And the last thing he did before heading back to Ole Virginny… Was to buy lobsters to steam at home off of one of these lobster boats…
Lobster Boats

Well… That is about it… Your Maximum Leader might blog more in the next few months. He says this because he’ll be spending more time in front of his computer at home… He’ll explain why in another post… Until then…

Carry on.

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