Qui tacet consentit.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader really does love the film “A Man for All Seasons.” He loves it for a whole bunch of reasons that are not pertinent right now. But the title of this post comes from a scene in the film where Sir (Saint) Thomas More is on trial and he schools his prosecutors that he’s not spoke out against the King’s marriage and advises them that “Silence gives consent.” Your Maximum Leader, no Latin scholar, recently learned that the full Latin saying is: “Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit.” Or, in English,: “He who is silent, when he ought to have spoken and was able to, is taken to agree.” (Thanks Wikipedia!)

Your Maximum Leader has not written specifically about what is going on in our country right now. Frankly, other than a very few people who have asked him personally about his thoughts on current events, he’s not expressed himself much on the subject. He is now reading and seeing on the news a good number of celebrities, politicians, and ordinary people making declarations that if you “aren’t speaking out, you’re part of the problem.” Since civil society is not a court of law, and we are not engaging in contracts, and your Maximum Leader is not invested with real authority over others, his silence is not meaningful one way or another in a legal sense. He is, however, a little disturbed by the subtext of “not speaking out” means that he’s “part of the problem.” Have we really gotten to the point where we have to announce our opinions on every matter that is reported on the news or in the moment seems to be of public concern? Thanks to social media do we have to disclose to everyone what we think or feel about anything at any given time? Are we supposed to volunteer our opinions in times of heated, passionate, and sometimes irrational discourse so that they can be parsed by anyone with a grievance? Perhaps we are there now. That thought is troubling in a number of ways.

So for what does your Maximum Leader’s silence imply consent? Does he consent to black Americans being killed by the police? Does he consent to peaceful protests? Does he consent to armed men killing a black jogger? Does he consent to rioting in the streets? Does he approve of the political response to all of these issues? Of course the answer is that your Maximum Leader knows his own mind on these things and anything that is construed by another is just inference.

Your Maximum Leader does have opinions on these matters. He’s actually started a post on current events. But the events have changed quickly enough that what he’s written doesn’t seem to adequately capture the spirit of what is going on at any given moment. He may choose to write more in the coming days, or he may not. (He also may have a post in him about the Villainschloss and the joys of home ownership and having a schloss full of people…)

Carry on.

Quaranta Giorni

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader thought he’d learned something this week. As it turns out, it is more like he learned something, thought about it some, realized he’d probably learned it at some point in the past but forgotten it. Does that count as learning? Re-learning perhaps. Or just “remembering” more accurately.

Regardless, that which your Maximum Leader re-learned/remembered is the origin of the word Quarantine. It comes from Italian, and specifically the Venetian dialect of Italian. The term quaranta giorni which means “40 days.” The words quaranta giorni were apparently shortened to “quarantina” and that word made its way into English as quarantine. Why 40 days? You have probably guessed already, but here is the story. During the period of the Republic of Venice, when the city-state was a major maritime trading power (and naval power in the Mediterranean in general) when ships would come into the lagoon they would be inspected. Ships found to have sick/infested/plague-ridden crew (or goods) were not allowed to dock in the city of Venice proper. They were directed to the small islands of Lazzaretto Vecchio or San Lazzaro Nuvo which sit off the Lido. There, the ships, cargo, and crews would remain for 40 days. After that 40 day period they could proceed to Venice proper. One of your Maximum Leader’s favorite websites, Atlas Obscura, has a great article on this subject called “The Black Death in Venice and the Dawn of Quarantine.” He commends the article to you.

NB: Your Maximum Leader has considered buying the book from the Atlas Obscura article, but it is a little dear. Furthermore, your Maximum Leader isn’t sure he is going to read a rather academic sounding book right now. But still, $64? Yikes!

Earlier this week, after reading the Atlas Obscura article, your Maximum Leader thought to himself that he couldn’t believe that he’d never read about quaranta giorni in any of the many books on Venice he’s read during his life. So today he went into the stacks (as it were) and checked a few of his books on Venice. Sure enough, there were references to quaranta giorni. So your Maximum Leader is left to conclude that he probably encountered this piece of trivia before, but forgot it at some point.

Interestingly, but not unsurprisingly, given our current global pandemic situation, your Maximum Leader has seen reference to the origin of the word quarantine several times this week. He finds it funny that he has seen it so many times this week, but not in the previous weeks of the pandemic. We have, after all, been effectively in quarantine (at least here in VA) since March. Your Maximum Leader can’t help but wonder if Atlas Obscura is a more read website than he thought. They published the article on May 11. By May 16th he’d seen this reference at least 3 times, including in this peice from CNN article on the future of Venice.

If your Maximum Leader had a bunch of money laying about, and a valid passport*, he would go to Venice right now. As readers of this space know, he desperately wants to visit Venice. In fact, if he were (heaven forfend) to be told that he only had six months to live, he would quit everything and go to Venice. It would be his last trip on this earth. It is the top of his bucket list. He would love to see Venice now. There would not a lot of tourists. There would be clear water (and sea life) in the canals. There would likely be some good deals on hotels as well. Though honestly your Maximum Leader doubts that the two hotels at which your Maximum Leader would like to stay in Venice (the Hotel Danieli** or the Gritti Palace Hotel) run deals. He would be quite surprised to learn that they do.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t have the cash laying about for such a trip. Also, Mrs. Villain has declared that she is “not willing to risk the health or life” of any member of the family just to go on vacation. (There is some additional context to this quotation that your Maximum Leader may share later, but not right now.) So there is that…

* - You read that correctly. Your Maximum Leader no longer has a valid passport. It is sad. He discovered this in November of last year. He had planned to get it renewed this spring. But according to the State Department, renewals can take 6 months at this point. The State Department further claims that when the COVID-19 quarantine is lifted their backlog will disappear quickly. They recommend waiting to renew.

** - Your Maximum Leader’s dream Venetian vacation would be to spend a week in the Doge’s Suite at the Hotel Danieli. He would spend his days wandering throughout the city at his own pace. Darting into any church, museum, shop, or eatery that struck his fancy. He would also like to see an opera at La Fenice. He’d prefer to see a Verdi opera at La Fenice, but isn’t going to be picky. And every night of his stay he would like to have a pevarini cookie and a Bellini cocktail every night before bed. Of course, this is a dream. Just like being a maximum leader…

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.

Advocacy in Favour of Our Client, Belial.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes that it were possible in the current political climate, and frankly the general societal climate overall, to have a serious discussion. He means this just as broadly as he plainly stated it. No one, at least in the West, is capable of having a serious discussion. Certainly those with opposite political views can discourse seriously on whatever topic you like. It doesn’t happen frequently, but it can happen. When it does it is noteworthy. But getting those with opposite views together to seriously and sanely discuss an issue hasn’t happened in a while. Additionally, particularly in the West, we are not fond of analysis after a crisis event to figure out how we can do things better. And thus we start to segue into the point of this virtual epistle.

It would be, at least in your Maximum Leader’s opinion, worth having a serious discussion about how we in the United States should deal with the current Covid-19 pandemic. Of course, it actually seems too late to have this discussion now, in the thick of it. We really should have had a national discussion (or at least a Blue Ribbon Commission that studied and made recommendations) based on the H1N1, or SARS epidemics. It would have been nice to look over what was done, how it was done, what didn’t work, what did, and lay down a framework for future epidemics. But that didn’t happen and honestly is not going to happen after Covid-19 subsides.

In this discourse, your Maximum Leader wishes to just put a few points to ponder out there for you, loyal minion and dear reader, to consider. Thus far our national response to Covid-19 seems to be a patchwork of recommendations about self-isolation, followed by general closures of public institutions (schools, universities, and the like), and then the imposition of mandatory partial quarantines (such as in New York, Pennsylvania, California, and Washington). There is a general clamor for a broader national shutdown of all but essential services. The rationale for these actions is to slow the spread of the virus so as to not overwhelm the health care system. These actions are all about slowing the spread of the virus. If one is listening carefully, the number of people that will catch the virus isn’t changing just the period of time over which the infected will become infected. By limiting the spread, one allows the health care system to prepare for what is coming, better manage the crisis when it is fully upon us, and save as many lives as possible. The societal cost of this the national economy comes to a stand-still.

Some brave souls, and with this post your Maximum Leader supposes he is one of them, have asked us to consider alternatives. He doesn’t believe many are advocating doing nothing, though some are. The general thrust of many of the alternatives is think about the economy. That is the where your Maximum Leader is going to go. If we shut down the economy, as we are doing, the repercussions are great and worthy of consideration. Many small businesses will close permanently. It seems as though people are happy to believe that the Federal government sending checks to taxpayers and providing loans at low (or zero) interest will magically allow a small business to weather all this and reopen as though we had all taken a long vacation from everything. This is magical thinking. The trillions of dollars circulating through the US economy are not going to be replicated by gifts or loans from the Federal government. Restaurants, small shops, many of the self-employed, are not going to be able to reopen. If these businesses do not reopen, then their employees as well as the business owners will suffer. No one knows how the economy will restart or how much will restart. There is much talk of a bailout of the airline industry. But these bailouts will come with strings. Don’t buy-back stock. No executive bonuses. Companies must retain their work force. Your Maximum Leader asks, how exactly does this work out? If the government bails out Boeing, is the bailout coming with the certification that the 737-MAX is also safe to fly and start producing? Is United going to have to maintain, and fly jets on routes that are mostly empty due to a recession or depression? How does this work out? Heavy-handed government intervention in these areas often has unintended and disastrous consequences. The shocks will come at some point. If the bailouts come with conditions, as seems likely, the shock will be delayed. But they will come.

So why are we proceeding with an economic shutdown? To prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed and thus saving more lives. If the virus spreads unchecked, or even weakly checked, the health care system will be unable to keep up with the care of those infected with the virus as well as those who would have needed services without the virus. We are talking about potentially millions of people dying due to the virus or due to being unable to received needed care. On the other hand, by stopping the economy we are creating a crisis of unemployment, contraction, and medium/long-term dependency on public funds. We all should probably ask if it is worth it. If in fact those most at risk for death from Covid-19 are the elderly and those with immunodeficiencies, are these people fully-participating members of the economy? Where are our people who clamor for wealth redistribution here? We know that retirees have a fair amount of saved wealth which is supplemented by programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. If a substantial portion of this population were to die due to the Covid-19 epidemic, wouldn’t that wealth be freed up? Wouldn’t the pressure on the Federal budget be lessened because the number of transfer payments would be greatly reduced? Isn’t that an overall positive societal benefit?

What about other potential upsides for the economy? Your Maximum Leader will not argue that history repeats itself. He will, however, argue that history has leitmotifs. A leitmotif we might look to is Europe after the Black Death. The plague had pretty much run its course by the early 1400s. The (greatly reduced) population of Europe experienced a tremendous period of economic and cultural growth. A period that later became known as the Renaissance. You may have heard of the Renaissance. It wasn’t just a lot of painting going on. The manorial system of the middle ages had been literally destroyed by the plague and peasants (due to their scarcity) realized that they didn’t have to be tethered to the land of a single lord. It was the beginning of what we might call social mobility. The Renaissance saw the growth of cities, trades, art, music, and that crazy group known as the middle class. Your Maximum Leader will not argue that this would definitely happen in a post-Covid-19 world. But perhaps it is worth considering. Economic historians might also look to the periods of economic growth after the epidemics (plague, smallpox, and others) that occurred in the early 1600s and 1700s. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure that there is a serious analogue to the Roaring 20s and the end of the Spanish Flu of 1919, but there might be some small connection there as well.

What your Maximum Leader is stating here is that we all ought to consider the trade-offs between shutting down our economy and saving (potentially millions) of lives, and not shutting down our economy and potentially saving ourselves from economic catastrophe.

That is all.

Carry on.

(Don’t forget the tweety-box @maximumleader.)

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.

A New Year’s Message

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes you a Happy New Year. May it be filled with the emotions you allow yourself to be overcome with!

In our current social climate it seems a bit wrong to just wish you a peaceful, prosperous, and joyful 2020. If one is dissatisfied with politics, nothing your Maximum Leader writes will help you. If one is anxious about the health of the planet, nothing your Maximum Leader writes will help you. If one is upset that others are not sufficiently accommodating or accepting of others, nothing your Maximum Leader writes will help you. What your Maximum Leader is expressing is that you will only allow yourself the peace, joy, and mental/emotional well-being that you are predisposed to allow yourself. Allow your Maximum Leader to take the long view for a moment. We live in an age of miracle and wonder. (To crib Paul Simon’s lyric.) 2020 is the best time to be alive for a human being in the whole of human history. You may think politics are shit (and they are). You may think that life on the planet is going to collapse in 15-100 years (and it may). You may be offended by people that do not share your beliefs (and it is likely many don’t). But all in all and across the globe things that made life miserable and short are diminishing with each passing year. If you step back and look at the broad swath of history, none of your ancestors every had it so good. Perhaps you should be a little thankful and take a moment to see how you can make a positive change to yourself. A little change to yourself may have ripples outward to others.

Enough of the hippy-esque talk now! Down to business.

First of all, you’re welcome for this post. Your Maximum Leader is certain that all of you that might stumble across this page (or even navigate to it on purpose) are glad to see the new of the Washington Nationals winning the World Series pushed down the page.

Your Maximum Leader is coming to you from the dungeon of the Villainschloss. A dungeon in great disarray. It upsets his . Yes. Your Maximum Leader’s harmony is disturbed. It is due to a number of improvements being made to the Villainschloss. You see, the dungeon bathroom is being remodeled. He hopes that the work on that room will be done by Monday, but he isn’t 100% sure it will be. Additionally, the stairs down to the dungeon are being stained (after being replaced recently). This means that your Maximum Leader must walk out of the Villainschloss, around to the dungeon door, and then come back in. Of course, a little more walking would do your Maximum Leader good, but it is damned annoying.

As today is New Year’s Day, your Maximum Leader has attended Mass to fulfil his obligation to observe the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. (NB: Wasn’t this day at one point known as “Mary, Queen of the Universe?” Has your Maximum Leader imagined that? Too lazy to Google it right now.) He attended Mass at 7am as is his habit. He wanted to go to the Vigil Mass last night at 7pm that was celebrated in Latin. Sadly, his plans did not pan out and he went this morning.

Why did his plans not pan out you may ask? Well, it is because he was smoking pork shoulder and it just didn’t get done until much later than he planned. You see, your Maximum Leader was gifted this Christmas with some of his favorite seasoning rub. It is from Charlie Vergo’s Rendezvous restaurant in Memphis, TN. If he is being forthcoming, he was gifted with a lot of spice rub in fact. (The gifter misread the ordering page and rather than ordering 1 box of 8 jars of rub, ordered 8 boxes of 8 jars of rub.) Faced with an embarrassment of delightful spices, your Maximum Leader took out two nice sized pieces of pork shoulder from the freezer, thawed them, brined them, then covered them in Rendezvous rub and set them to cook in the smoker. Sadly, due to the shape of one of the bones, and the breeze that must have kept the temperature down a bit lower than his smoker’s thermometer read, the pieces took a few hours longer to cook than planned. Not only that, one of the two pieces still wasn’t fully done when he took them out of the smoker. Sadly a little time in the oven to correct this error was needed before they could be served. They tasted great, but the need for extra heat upset your Maximum Leader a touch.

Anyhow, dinner on New Year’s Eve didn’t occur until 7pm. So Latin Mass was out.

Back to Mass… Your Maximum Leader prayed for many of you that might see this. And he offered up general intentions for everyone. He is going to try to be more prayerful this year. Specifically, he is going to try to change the general thrust of his prayers (such as they are) to be more thankful and to ask to be more receptive to good in the world around him. He has been reflecting on many things and realizes that a (however small) change is his outlook might reap manifold benefits. This applies to prayer as much as everything else. So there is that…

Ellipses…

Your Maximum Leader has been reading on the interwebs (specifically on the Tweety-box follow your Maximum Leader!) that people who use ellipses to “trail off” in their writing are generally evil and horrible people. To quote Carl Spackler, “So, I’ve got that going for me.”

To turn to topical news…

What is the protocol for killing people storming your Embassy? Your Maximum Leader’s personal opinion is that Embassies, Ambassadors, and Embassy Staff are sacrosanct. Once people breached a clearly demarcated perimeter, all bets are off. Your Maximum Leader falls in line, historically, with the Mongol Khans in this particular area of diplomacy. As evinced by this Ambassadorial medallion from Kublai Khan in 1240.
Khan Passport

Your Maximum Leader is declaring right now that there is not one single person running for the office of President of the United States of America for whom he can vote in good conscience. That is saying something, because there are about 100 people running. As you may recall, your Maximum Leader cast his vote in 2016 for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate. Not knowing who the Libertarian candidate might be yet, there is a big empty spot right now in your Maximum Leader’s mental ballot paper. Your Maximum Leader is no fan of Donald Trump, but the Democrat candidates seem to only be able to push your Maximum Leader towards Trump. Your Maximum Leader can hardly believe he is typing these words are they appear on the screen in front of him. Trump is awful, but every Democrat is as bad or worse. They aren’t worse from a personal point of view. Trump is a terrible person. But the Democrats are terrible from a policy perspective. From the point of view of presidential politics, 2020 doesn’t look all that good. At this point your Maximum Leader might write in “zombie Richard Nixon” for President.

Which brings up the question, would a zombie Richard Nixon be eligible to be elected President of the US? A quick reading of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution tells us that “no person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice.” So there we have it. Richard Nixon, even reanimated Richard Nixon, is not eligible to serve as President.

Speaking of zombies, when your Maximum Leader contemplates melee weapons to keep in handy for the zombie apocalypse, one of the first ones he thinks of is a Venetian war hammer. Clicky here to see one if you are unfamiliar. They have some length (to keep the zombies a little way away from you). They have a pointy bits (for when you want to get stabby). They have the hammer bit (for when you want to get smashy). And the have the hook bit (for when you want to pull down a zombie before your get stabby or smashy on them). (NB: for those D&D players out there, a Venetian war hammer depending on it’s size causes 1d6 to 1d10 of damage.)

Of course, you want to have a ranged weapon too. Guns are great for as long as one can get ammo. Then you need bows or crossbows…

Speaking of guns. Did you see that video of the terrible shooting at the church in Texas? The one where more bloodshed was averted by 71 year old Jack Wilson. Mr. Wilson drew his weapon and shot the assailant in the head at a distance of 50 (or so feet) within seconds of the assailant’s first shot. It was a masterful and timely display of skill and expertise. Your Maximum Leader is not nearly as skilled and isn’t sure how he would have reacted in Mr. Wilson’s place. Of course, your Maximum Leader will freely admit that he would feel awkward bringing a gun into church. Even if it was legal and okay with the church in question. Your Maximum Leader’s awkwardness would leave him to his fate and having to rely on people like Mr. Wilson to save him.

Well… The ellipses indicate that your Maximum Leader is trailing off now. He has come to the end of things in his brain to put down in the blog right now.

Merry Christmas (until Epiphany at least) and Happy New Year.

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.

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.

Carbon Emissions Question

Greetings, loyal minions. So here is a real question for you to noodle over some. If the US and Western Europe (plus Canada, Japan, and Australia) were to achieve zero net carbon emissions in the next 20 years, but the other major emitters of carbon (China, India, Russia, et. al.) did nothing to reduce their carbon emissions, what would be the net impact on global climate change?

Seriously, that is the question.

I have been googling for about an hour looking for a model, or a description of a model, or a summary of a model that might show someone reading it “This is the net impact of these countries going to zero carbon emissions.”

I can’t find one. I found a neat chart showing which nations are the top emitters of carbon. Here is that chart. But I really want to see a model. Gawd knows that there seem to be plenty of models that (with varying degrees of inaccuracy) show how everything is going to hell if no nation does anything (or very little). Why is there no model that says, “here is the impact you can have if you do something major.”

I don’t want to go down the old path of “Well why should the US do anything because China and India aren’t doing anything?” I actually want that question anticipated (not that it should be now because the question has been asked plenty). Once anticipated I’d like to see a scientist develop a model that shows what might happen.

I think such a model might be useful. Useful only for those people who are sceptical, and open-minded; and admittedly small group. This issue, like so many others in what passes for “discourse” in these times, has had opinions ossify. People have made up their minds (in large part) and aren’t going to change. Not for any reason related to assessing the facts, theories, and models at hand, but just because they have made up their mind and have chosen to be obstinate about it.

Anyway… If there is a model out there… I’d like to take a look at it.

Carry on.

Smollett

Greetings, loyal minions. This whole Jussie Smollett situation should fill you with the wide range of emotions and thoughts. To recap: Jussie Smollett, a gay, black actor, claimed to have been assaulted in Chicago by two men. During the assault he had a noose thrown around his neck, a liquid poured on him, and was beaten. The men, Smollett claimed, were wearing “Make American Great Again” caps. In the ensuing days and weeks (it seems like weeks - but time has taken on a peculiar quality since 2017 it seems) two camps appeared. The first camp, mostly populated by liberals/progressives, stood by Smollett and decried how racism and racial hatred and racially-based hate crimes were a symptom of “Donald Trump’s America.” The second camp, mostly populated by conservatives/right-wingers, stood back and said “something doesn’t seem right with this story.”

As it seems to be turning out, there is something wrong with the story and those of the second camp I just described seem to be justified. According to news reports coming out of the Chicago Police Department, the two (black) men (immigrants from Nigeria it seems) were paid by Smollett to assault him. The hired assailants bought rope and plain red hats to carry out the staged attack. Smollett is, apparently, sticking by the story that he’s maintained publicly (including in an interview with Robin Roberts on ABC). Slowly the facts of the case seem to be going is a much different direction.

I am much more active on the Twitter than here. (@maximumleader) But I steered away from this story. I was shocked when it was first reported. I continue to be horrified by the racially charged nature of so many crimes and incidents in America over the past two years. It seemed plausible that such an assault could have happened. But as the facts started to ebb out I started to be sceptical. The attackers were allegedly black men. It seemed a little implausible that there would be two black Trump supporters in Chicago looking to assault another black man. Then there was the absence of CCTV footage. There were questions about the police getting to examine Smollett’s cell phone. There were questions… Now it seems like it was all a terrible contrivance.

The real tragedy here is that this whole incident further widens the already widening chasms between the various factions within America. Liberals are rending their shirts and covering themselves with ash while saying how this will affect how society will view future (and real) claims of racist attacks. And they are right to do so. A false claim, and even worse - a staged incident - does, I believe, cause people to be more cautious and sceptical of future claims by future victims. It is a society-wide expansion of the boy who cried wolf - but writ over a whole class of crimes and victims. Conservatives on the other hand are pointing fingers at liberals and especially the media and cheering themselves for being vindicated. They, rightly, claim that the whole incident was never investigated seriously when the claims were first made. The media believed because they wanted to believe because it fit the narrative they want to advance. I believe that this is also pretty true. If you are inclined to look for evidence of racism and racial hatred everywhere you aren’t going to question a big story like this one when it comes along.

All in all, I’m willing to go with the pox on both your houses. Our age of social media and instant commentary on anything has lead us to become reflexively partisan on just about any issue. It also give everyone the ability to comment in real time on anything. There is no time to gather facts. (NB: as if facts matter. Echo chambers of social media don’t appreciate facts that don’t fit the narrative. It is appearances that matter.) There is no time, and frankly no desire, to learn the facts and use them to create an intelligent opinion. As a result, the echo chambers resound. The divides harden. The sides grow further apart.

I don’t mind disagreement. But I want to encourage discussion of a serious sort. That being said, our society doesn’t value serious discussion and calm acceptance of differences. So the whole Smollett thing will just go down as another hoax that sets to wear down the bonds of civil society.

Carry on.

Random Thoughts This Election Day

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader did his civic duty today and voted. He didn’t vote at the crack of dawn as is his habit. He voted a little later (before lunch). Normally his ballot is one of the first 100 or so in the counting machine. In your Maximum Leader’s county there is a tally displayed on the counting machine that ticks up by one every time a ballot is entered into it. It is always interesting to compare the number he gets on his little ticket to the number on the counting machine. (One confirms one’s identity and then is given a ticket that is exchanged for a ballot.) In most years when your Maximum Leader exercises his franchise the ticket number and the counting machine number are within a digit or two of each other. Normally, those numbers are under 100. Today, around 10:45 am your Maximum Leader’s counting machine number was 677.

That number of 677 caused your Maximum Leader to think. As he remembered, in the elections last year (state and local elections) there were a total of about 1,300 votes cast. So he asked a poll worker he knows and said that turnout seems to be higher than normal non-Presidential years. The poll worker confirmed that if the trends continued today, this would look more like a Presidential election year than a standard mid-term.

(NB: If there are any Democrats reading this, don’t get your hopes up. Your Maximum Leader’s precinct is reliably and heavily Republican.)

So, anecdotally, this is shaping up to be a very atypical mid-term election year…

Then again… For the past 4 years or so everything in our politics has been atypical. And in addition to being atypical, he would further characterize our politics as “bad.”

Now your Maximum Leader is not without historical perspective in this. He knows how vicious politics were in the Age of Jackson. And how brutal they were leading up to the Civil War. I don’t know that we are approaching a Civil War (though there are a disturbing number of people on both sides of the aisle that seem to be predicting - and some welcoming - another Civil War). But we are probably in a period that is just as bad as the time of Andrew Jackson. It may seem worse because of how media (the news, newspapers, social media - literally all of it “media”) seems to amplify everything political. But there is a disturbing trend towards tribalism and incivility.

On your Maximum Leader’s Twitter feed (@MaximumLeader) he has pinned Tweet. It reads: “Civility is the spanx holding in the barbarism of humanity.” That was true in January 2016, and more true today. American society, at least as it is being portrayed in the broad media, is growing less civil. Good manners and politeness don’t seem to be the order of the day. It is important that you harangue public figures as they dine, or walk the streets. Resistance is a full-time occupation. That is really too bad. Perhaps it is better to talk and try to understand people before you write them off as incorrigible. There are some incorrigibles out there. You can’t reason with them or talk to them. They need to be shunned. Don’t engage. Ignore. Isolate. But it is more dramatic to engage and make a scene. Show that you are resisting.

Was it Winston Churchill who said that a fanatic is someone who’ll not change there mind and won’t change the subject? Your Maximum Leader thinks so. He also thinks more and more people are happy to be fanatics.

But this post was billed as “random thoughts.” What other thoughts are going through your Maximum Leader’s mind that are not political? Well a bunch. Here are some:

1) Should he make a seafood chowder for dinner Friday night? He made one about 10 days ago and it was great. He’s thought of improvements he could make on his approach and thinks he needs to implement them.

2) Would vampires be affected by tattoos of crosses/crucifixes on the flesh of a potential victim? This one has been on his mind since Halloween and his Universal Monsters movie marathon.

3) Speaking of Universal Monsters… Someone at that studio needs to come up with a single unified grand plan to revitalize that fictional milieu (The Dark Universe) - if the studio is actually considering doing so. They need to focus on a single character or group of characters, that are not the monsters, to act as the focal point of the films…

4) Your Maximum Leader really used to dislike (nay - actively hate) chicken pot pie growing up. But he really really loves it now. Mrs. Villain made one last night and your Maximum Leader devoured it.

5) Will there ever be justice for Jamal Khashoggi? Well, not justice for Mr. Khashoggi. No justice but divine mercy can be given to him now. But will those responsible for his brutal murder ever be brought to temporal justice? By this your Maximum Leader doesn’t mean only those that carried out the grisly crime. But will the man apparently ultimately responsible, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, ever be brought to justice. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t think so…

6) When will your Maximum Leader get the time to spend a day watching orangutans in the zoo?

7) How much longer will your Maximum Leader’s phone battery (and backup battery) hold out on his iPhone 6? How long before he has to get a new phone?

8 ) When will the next season of “Norsemen” come out on Netflix?

9) Speaking of Norsemen… Your Maximum Leader believes that “American Gods” may have supplanted “Shogun” as his favorite work of general (popular) fiction. He’s now read AG at least 3 times (perhaps 4). He can’t remember how many times he’s read “Shogun.” But it has been a lot. He finds he can’t recall many parts until he is reading them again and has an, “Oh, I remember this now.” moment.

10) Your Maximum Leader needs to renew his passport so that he can: A) visit Venice before it is swallowed by the Adriatic; B) visit Iceland. Those are the two foreign places at the top of his list right now. He thinks he’s going to have to go to Iceland twice. Once in the summer and once in the winter. That way he can see all the things he wants to. (Some things - like certain waterfalls and trails - are only accessible during the summer. Others - like the Northern Lights - are only in the winter.)

That is about all from here. Your Maximum Leader will monitor election results and wonder about the future of our Republic.

Carry on.

TWP - 4, Rights and Stuff

Greetings, loyal minions. I suppose it is time to put some thoughts down on the blog about guns, gun rights, individual rights, and political discourse…

Like any decent person, I was horrified at the mass shooting in Las Vegas. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone who wasn’t. Now, one week removed, we are into the cycle of argument and recrimination. Sadly, this cycle is just that, a cycle. It has phases that are more or less predictable and will eventually come to an end with all sides remaining angry at one another. There are so many reasons for this and to unpack them all is going to take more time than I am willing to spend writing, but I’ll take a shot at addressing some of the broader topics in the public square.

It should be no secret that I am a gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment. Further, I am a member of the NRA. If that causes you to stop at this point, fine, but I hope that you might proceed a bit further.

Because I am a gun owner and NRA member doesn’t mean that I am part of a monolithic block of Americans. I find that gun owners opinions on various aspects of gun rights will vary between them. In this we (I?) am no different that other Americans that may not agree when we discuss the nature and possible limitations to our rights in our Republic. In one important point of discussion we are unified, we believe that Americans have a right, enshrined in the Constitution, to keep and bear arms.

And we immediately hit the first sticking point in the broader discussion of guns, such as that discussion is able to be had. The Second Amendment does enshrine the right of Americans to keep and bear arms - that is to own guns. There are many people who will parse the wording of the Second Amendment to say that the right exists only as part of an organized militia. Those people, are now, wrong. This particular piece of debate was ended when the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in District of Columbia v. Heller that the right to keep and bear arms was an individual right. This ruling confirmed what I had always believed. And it is the law of the land now.

There are, as one might expect, those who believe Heller was wrongly decided and that they would like to see it overturned. I don’t believe it will be, at least not under the Supreme Court’s current make up. And if Heller is not overturned soon, it will not be overturned.

I am going to take a dangerous turn here to illustrate and illuminate my thinking on this point. My point is that Heller affirms an individual right to keep and bear arms. It is currently the law of the land. As such, it’s authority is shaping our view of the law across the nation. If it is not overturned or limited soon, the hold of that decision will become more a part of the fabric of our legal system and will become less and less able to be overturned. To illustrate this point I will direct you to Roe v. Wade. Roe was decided in 1973. It has been the law of the land forty-four years. During those 44 years attempts to overturn it have been unsuccessful. Many of the attempts to limit the potential scope of the decision have been made, to various degrees success. To be frank, most of those attempts have been unsuccessful. I will posit to you that it will never be overturned and limitations to abortion rights will be minimal.

I use this example to help to frame the way in which the issue of guns is discussed, or not discussed, in America. As a people, many Americans have strong opinions on abortion. These opinions are quite polarized and the two sides mostly talk past each other when they even try to talk. Those who are pro-abortion can always fall back on the legal fact that abortion is legal, and it is enshrined as a right by a decision of the Supreme Court. A right that was not specifically enumerated in text of the Constitution but has been determined to exist nonetheless. Those who are pro-life hope that they can limit this right through legal and judicial means, or have the Supreme Court change its mind. After years of observing, I don’t think the pro-life side will ever get Roe overturned. I also have my doubts that they will ever be successful at limiting the scope of legal abortion.

Now take the Second Amendment. Here is a right that is specifically enumerated in the Constitution. The actual right to keep and bear arms is right there in the text for anyone to read. The right to keep and bear arms doesn’t emanate from a penumbra of another enumerated right. To hear or read many of those who want to restrict the right to keep and bear arms, you wouldn’t know it. This is not to say that all rights are unlimited, there can and ought to be limits on our rights. The first that should jump to your mind is not being able to yell fire in a crowded theatre. But many gun control advocates do want to severely curtail or eliminate the right to own a gun.

If you have not, you probably ought to read a very good piece from Meredith Dake-O’Connor at The Federalist. I want to cite two of her “6 Reasons Your Right-Wing Friend Isn’t Coming To Your Side On Gun Control.” They are reasons 1 and 6. Here they are:

1. We Rarely Get to Come to the Conversation in Good Faith
The most destructive, divisive response when dealing with Second Amendment advocates is the notion that we aren’t on your side of the issue because we “don’t care” about the tragedy and loss of life. Two years ago at Christmas I had a family member, exasperated that I wasn’t agreeing about gun control, snarl, “It appears that if your [step] daughter was killed because of gun violence you wouldn’t even care!”

I’ve seen journalists, politicians, and friends in recent days say something to the effect of “If children dying (in Newtown) won’t change their minds, nothing will!” The obvious implication is that we are unmoved by the loss of life.

It is a true dehumanization of Second Amendment advocates to think that we didn’t see the events unfolding in Las Vegas and have the same ache deep in our souls. That we, too, haven’t read the memorials of those who gave their lives for others and silently cried over our computers or phones. We felt it, and we hurt, and some of us even died or were heroes and rescued others. As hard as it may be to imagine, a person can watch this, ache, hurt, and be profoundly affected by these events and not change his or her position on the Second Amendment.

You may be thinking that the right-wing kneejerk response to assume that progressives just want to confiscate guns is also a denial of coming to the table in good faith. You would be right. However, I suggest assuming progressives just want to ban guns, or some other policy, is not equivalent to thinking, “If you really cared that people died you would agree with me.”

6. We Really Do Consider Owning Firearms a Right
I view the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence as declaring the intrinsic and inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I believe the framers knew that liberty is only achieved when the citizenry is known to keep tyrannical government, and those who would do me harm, at bay. My favorite explainer on citizens and their relation with tyrannical government is James Otis’ “Rights of the British Colonies” essay, but many like to use Hamilton’s Federalist Paper No. 29.

Beyond that, part of having liberty is personal safety from harm. Outside of the grace of God, I am the one primarily responsible for my safety, because I am able to be responsible for my safety. While I view the government’s primary responsibility the safety of its citizens, I am first responsible for my safety. Further, because I am able to be responsible for my safety, I have a duty as a good citizen to be prepared to protect others who cannot protect themselves. This is part of liberty. And the primary way I can ensure my liberty is by owning a firearm (and voting for those in favor of limited government—but that’s another debate).

Second Amendment advocates truly view owning a firearm as an intrinsic right and a must to preserve liberty. It has nothing to do with hunting. It has nothing to do with hobbies. That’s why when discussions of firearms that aren’t meant for hunting come into the debate you don’t see many advocates conceding they aren’t needed. Further, it’s the primary reason we seem unwilling to budge on this policy when tragedies occur. Evil acts don’t cancel out a law-abiding citizen’s rights.

So many gun control advocates are begging for a conversation on this issue, and it’s unfortunate they don’t see the Second Amendment advocates as willing to engage. I find it hard to have an honest and vulnerable conversation about a deeply held right when the starting point is often challenging my motives while coming from a place of ignorance on firearms. If you’re really looking to win over your gun-loving friend, try reading up on firearms, dumping anti-NRA talking points, and assume her or she is equally committed to preventing these evil acts.

I agree very strongly with Ms. Dake-O’Connor in this. It is hard, almost impossible in fact, to have a discussion about guns in America when one side denies that owning guns is a right, and furthermore starts the discussion from the position of “we must do something” and “something” is restricting your rights.

This is a good a time as any to address that favorite trope of “if there is a right to own a gun, it would be a flintlock or other gun available in 1787.” This particular point upsets me greatly. More than it should really. If you put forth this argument are you also willing to apply it to the First Amendment? Your free speech rights are perfectly secure, as long as they are only exercised in a way that they would have been in 1787… Published paper broadsheets? Protected speech! Talking to your neighbor face to face? Protected speech! Internet? Not protected speech. Talking on the telephone, radio, or TV? Not protected speech. Is that really the heart of the argument? It would seem you have to believe the people who wrote the Constitution didn’t know that flintlocks were improvements on hand-cannons, which were better than crossbows, which were better than a regular bow, which was an improvement over a thrown spear, which was better than a thrown rock. I really wish we could retire this whole line of “argument.” And by the way, I will direct you to my previous point on the dangerous issue of abortion. If your right to bear arms were to be restricted to an 18th century firearm, do you want your abortion to be an 18th century affair as well?

So if it is the right of Americans to own guns, what then do we do about gun violence? There again, we’ve hit a very sticky wicket. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had discussions that all boil down to me talking about reasonable restrictions on purchasing guns, and the person I’m talking to throwing up their hands in disgust because that will not prevent all gun violence. Should I just go full Sadiq Khan on guns and declare that mass shootings are “part and parcel” of living in America and we all have to learn to live with it? On the face of it that seems to be a pretty awful thing to say. But at some level it might be what we have to say.

I feel I have to state that we might have to deal with mass shootings in America, just as we are having to live with terror attacks around the world, because I am not willing to seriously curtail the rights of law abiding Americans. There is never going to be a foolproof system that will prevent a person wanting to do violence with a gun and who can legally acquire a gun from doing so. I am all for strict enforcement of the existing laws that can prevent those who should not be able to get guns from getting them. I also would be amenable to the restriction of transfers of guns between private citizens. (NB: I think there could be a system whereby a dealer who can run a background check for a nominal fee can be used to make sure transfers between non-related people don’t result in someone who shouldn’t have a gun getting one.) The fact remains that there has never been a foolproof system for preventing bad, even evil, things from happening. There will not be one on this issue either.

This is as good a place to address a proposal put forward by a great number of people. I’ve read about proposals to insure that anyone on a “terror watch list” to not be able to buy a gun. This seems like a reasonable proposal on its face, but it is rife with difficulties. It doesn’t actually take suspicion of terrorist ties to get on a terror watch list. Having a similar name to a terrorist could be enough. Posting something to Facebook or Twitter (or your blog) could get you on a watch list. A whole range of items can get you on a watch list. The big problem is discovering you’re on a watch list, and then getting off of it. I think it is bad policy to restrict a person’s Constitutional rights without a judicial hearing with due process to make it happen. Again, just like I have stated a number of times already in this missive, would you apply this standard to other Constitutional rights? Are you okay with having a person’s right against search and seizure to be restricted or eliminated because they were on a terror watch list? How about their right to free speech or religion? I am not. Neither am I okay with restricting access to a gun because someone is on a watch list.

So have I thrown up my hands and said that there is nothing we can do about gun violence? In some sense I have. Don’t think I don’t feel awful about it either. While we can’t stop every violent act committed with a gun, there are things we can do on the periphery to start to address some of the causes of gun violence. The recent and oft quoted op-ed piece by Leah Libresco entitled “I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise.” is a good starting point. Many gun control advocates point to Great Britain and Australia as places where gun control and confiscation was enacted to some success. However, if you’ve read some of the linked pieces I’ve provided here, they are not analogous situations at all. First off, neither of those countries has a written Bill of Rights that specifically and clearly states that there is a right to keep and bear arms. Rights in Britain and Australia are more able to be changed by a law passed by their Parliaments. They don’t have the same tradition, or Constitution, that we do. Believe it or not, that makes it a hugely different matter.

This post has been, at so many levels, a sad and unfulfilling exercise. I make no apology for my support of the Second Amendment, and for the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution more broadly. But, after an atrocity is committed it is hard to feel like a full-throated statement of support is the proper thing to do. But it IS the proper thing to do. It is when it is most difficult to support your rights as an American that those rights need the most support. I strongly support the First Amendment, and I believe it is being severely and sometimes violently curtailed on college campuses across the country. I believe that the power of the police and state is expanding and our rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments are being diminished. It is in this time that we must stand up for our rights and fight that they not be reduced.

No matter what the costs may be.

Carry on.

The President and Going Places.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wants to take a moment to get something off his chest. This is something that people who know your Maximum Leader in real life (and talk to him from time to time) already know… Depending on the political affiliation of the President of the United States at the time, this position drives completely different groups of friends absolutely nuts. Here it goes:

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t begrudge the President of the United States a round of golf, a vacation, or even deciding not to attend a funeral at any time.

This comes up because many people with whom your Maximum Leader shares a political outlook are quite irate that President Obama is not going to attend the funeral of Justice Antonin Scalia. In fact, this piece pretty much captures the sentiment your Maximum Leader is talking about. Here is are some excerpts from the piece:

Unable to resist the urge to give one last snub to the Supreme Court justice who opposed him at every turn, President Obama will not attend the funeral of Antonin Scalia on Saturday. […] Obama will “pay his respects” to Scalia by viewing the remains at the Supreme Court on Friday. […] In none of those other cases was there such a personal animus on the part of the president toward a justice. Scalia’s scathing dissents on Obamacare cases no doubt angered the president. And just recently, Scalia was part of the majority that struck down the president’s climate change plans. It’s no wonder that the president will find something else to do this weekend than go to Scalia’s funeral — probably play golf.

Now… Allow your Maximum Leader to say that your Maximum Leader would not be surprised to discover irrefutably that President Obama is thin-skinned, and behaving like a petulant child and that is motivation to not attend the Scalia funeral. It is completely possible (even probable). Your Maximum Leader doesn’t know the mind of the President on this matter.

But, your Maximum Leader, in this case, and in most other cases you can think of, will always give the President (regardless of party affiliation) the benefit of the doubt when it comes to what he will do with his time and what events he will attend.

Please consider this for a moment, when the President of the United States goes somewhere it is a big deal. There are advance people, there is security, there is more security, there are reporters, there are hangers-on, there are staff. It is a circus. Yes, this is true to a lesser extent for the Vice-President as well. But it is the real deal for the President. If the President and Vice-President attend the same function it isn’t just that they do the security for one and the other just tags along. Oh no. It is double the trouble. That is just a fact of life when dealing with the President.

Now, if your Maximum Leader were a member of the Scalia family, he wouldn’t want the President to come to the funeral. All of the people and additional security that would be added to that which already has to be provided given the fame and position of the deceased and many of the other distinguished (and undistinguished) guests would be a huge additional burden on a day that is already burdensome. If the President was a friend of Justice Scalia, or an ideological fellow-traveler, or simply asked to come, then okay that is the way it will be. But if the choice was up to your Maximum Leader and the President wanted to stay away, that would be just fine. Frankly if the Vice-President wanted to stay away that would be fine too. Your Maximum Leader thinks that the President “paying his respects” at the Supreme Court building viewing is just fine.

What your Maximum Leader is saying is that having the President of the United States come to your [insert family event] is a logistical headache that complicates everything for everybody. In this respect your Maximum Leader doesn’t care if the President chooses to “stay in the bubble.”

Of course, the President, from time to time, needs to get out of “the bubble” and go somewhere that isn’t the White House, or Camp David. So the President might go out golfing. Or take a vacation. Those trips are disruptive as well. When the President goes on vacation somewhere there are communications issues, security, and screening that must take place. Your Maximum Leader seems to recall that someplace where Bill Clinton went on vacation got over $100,000 of communications infrastructure added to it so that Clinton would be in touch with all the entities that a President must be in touch with. And that is sort of the point too… The President, wherever he goes is still the President and has to be the President. The world doesn’t stop when the President plays golf or goes to Martha’s Vineyard or Hawaii. There really isn’t a vacation on that job. It is just a change of scenery and fewer meetings.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader has a friend who is a member of a country club where President Obama played golf once. The friend got pissed off when Obama came because it was 1) a short notice visit - less than 24 hrs; 2) no club members could go to the club to play golf during the time the President was there - and existing tee times were cancelled; 3) there was a huge expense to replace the fairways after the President left because apparently the Secret Service drove some sort of vehicle out there to tail the President while he played - this expense may have been paid by some outside group and not the club but your Maximum Leader is unclear about that. Your Maximum Leader had no sympathy for the friend for any of this. In fact, he wondered if club membership might have gotten a boost because Obama supporters in the area might have chosen to join…)

So, don’t complain to your Maximum Leader that the President is playing golf, or going on vacation, or skipping a funeral. There are manifest problems with the President going anywhere and those are just part of the job for him and the price we pay as citizens for keeping him safe.

Now… Having said all that… Playing golf or taking vacations or skipping funerals can produce serious (or not-too-serious) political issues involving “optics.” It looks bad for the President to play golf a few days after Russia invades one of its neighbors. It looks bad for the President to go on vacation after terrorists bomb something. It looks bad that the President is skipping the funeral of a Supreme Court Justice that he didn’t like… Those are all different issues. They can be legitimate ones as well… But just don’t pull out the whole Obama has played golf 270 times since he became President as the whole argument. There has got to be more than just “going golfing” to get your Maximum Leader worked up…

(UPDATE: Here is a good piece in the Chicago Tribune saying that President Obama should go to Scalia’s funeral, because that is what the office demands. Your Maximum Leader likes the piece and the sentiment behind it, but stands by what he has already written.)

Finally though… If your Maximum Leader were President of the United States (which thankfully he is not and will never be), he would likely try to keep himself in “the bubble” whenever possible. He will add that he does take a more expansive view of who’s funeral the President of the United States should attend than does President Obama… The White House and Camp David are pretty nice places. He thinks he could suffer through them for 4 or 8 (or 10*) years. There would be plenty of time to golf and travel once he was retired.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Tweety: @maximumleader

*Thanks to the 22nd Amendment the longest period any person can serve as President is 10 years.

Some Thoughts on Our Republic on Washington’s Birthday

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is using the “snow event” in which he finds himself to do an update of his blog. Lucky you.

As you have no doubt read, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia has died. He was, as you can imagine, one of your Maximum Leader’s favorite justices. On many many occasions Justice Scalia’s opinions, or dissents, were aligned with your Maximum Leader’s views. He was a towering figure on the court for the past 29 years. In your Maximum Leader’s opinion he will be sorely missed.

Now the spectacle that will be the nomination of a new justice to the bench is upon us. Your Maximum Leader was a young man when Antonin Scalia was appointed to the Supreme Court. As many have memorialized over the past few days, he was approved 98-0 in 1986. Scalia’s nomination and confirmation was the last, and will be the last, Supreme Court nomination to take what your Maximum Leader likes to think of as the “traditional” path to appointing a Supreme Court Justice. That “traditional” path was that the President nominated a brilliant jurist or legal mind who (as much as could be determined) reflected the President’s views and the Senate made sure that the nominee had no serious impediment to him taking a seat on the high court and approved the nomination. (For what it is worth, your Maximum Leader knows that this was not always how the nomination process went, but it was more “normal” than not.)

That all changed with the nomination of Robert Bork in 1987. The Bork nomination saga was the end of the old way of doing Supreme Court nominations and the beginning of the new. Now we must examine everything about the nominee and if a Senator wants to oppose the nominee on political grounds then so be it.

Your Maximum Leader thinks that, by the by, the Republic has suffered because of this. We don’t (often) get the best legal minds going to the Supreme Court because their ideology will keep them from getting confirmed. We wind up with (broadly speaking) qualified but underwhelming nominees. (Sonya Sotomayor leaps immediately to mind. As does (though your Maximum Leader likes his decisions) Clarence Thomas.)

Your Maximum Leader loves the Constitution. And he loves our political process as well. He would like to go back to the time where the President could nominate their pick and that pick would get confirmed (assuming they were properly vetted). But your Maximum Leader knows that those days are gone. They have been gone for nearly 30 years. They are not coming back.

So we find ourselves in 2016 at an impasse over how to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court. Your Maximum Leader is sure that President Obama will make a nomination. And your Maximum Leader is sure that the President’s nomination will be treated exactly as nominations should be treated - as described in 2006 by Senator Obama from Illinois:

As we all know, there has been a lot of discussion in the country about how the Senate should approach this confirmation process. There are some who believe that the President, having won the election, should have complete authority to appoint his nominee and the Senate should only examine whether the Justice is intellectually capable and an all-around good guy; that once you get beyond intellect and personal character, there should be no further question as to whether the judge should be confirmed. I disagree with this view. I believe firmly that the Constitution calls for the Senate to advise and consent. I believe it calls for meaningful advice and consent and that includes an examination of a judge’s philosophy, ideology, and record.

It is your Maximum Leader’s belief that the Senate should accept the President’s nomination for hearings. And then they can schedule the hearings at their leisure. Your Maximum Leader is given to understand that the Senate will be in recess from July to November of this year. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t see how, with the Senate’s tremendous work load (you know - doing the business of budget passing and law-making) it will possibly be able to schedule hearings before the July recess. And then it would be unseemly for the then lame-duck Senate to hold confirmation hearings before the new President is inaugurated. So, your Maximum Leader doesn’t see how the open seat gets filled before February 2017…

Of course, this path is fraught with danger. The first danger lies, of course, in the delay itself. How long can you delay before the people (such as they are) decide too much is too much? Once the people decide too much is too much, the obstructionist party will have to deal with widespread anger. That anger can exact a price at the ballot box. Since the Republicans are the obstructionists in this equation (a reputation they do all they can to develop in every possible way in Washington - by the way) how long do they think they can go? Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure. He is inclined to say that they can make it through the inauguration of the next President. But if they choose this path, they will have to approve the nomination of the next President quickly - and regardless of whom the next President is.

The next possible danger is (for Republicans) is that the Democrats will win the general election in November and either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders will make a nomination. Your Maximum Leader can see either of them nominating none other than Barack Obama himself to sit on the high court. If not Obama, then certainly someone of impeccable liberal credentials, who might be more liberal than whomever President Obama chooses to nominate at this time.

Another possible danger in this process, but a danger for the President, is that he selects a nominee that is very liberal and easy to for Republican paint as an extremist. If Republicans could make the nominee the issue (and not delay on the nomination), then the President torpedoes his own choice. Your Maximum Leader thinks this is rather unlikely. What he thinks is most likely, in fact, is that President Obama nominates a left-of-center judge who is generally not contraversial and then sits back and wait for Republicans to delay. Then make it a huge campaign issue that could turn out people on both sides. If it comes down to turn-out, Republicans lose. They lose the general election and they lose on the nomination.

It will be interesting, and saddening, to watch how it all will unfold over the rest of the year. No matter how it turns out, it will be bad for the country. Our Republic is faltering. It is faltering because the legislature cannot agree to even minimal legislating. Our debts grow and grow without any plan for repayment or reduction down the path. Our place as the “leader of the free world” (or even a “world leader” in general) is flagging because we cannot craft a foreign policy that advances our interests. We are in a bad spot. The United States has been in that bad spot for about 10-11 years. Your Maximum Leader wonders if there will not be some trigger event soon that will push us over the cliff, or (more optimistically) cause us to rise up. Difficult to see is the future…

Anyhoo…

It is Washington’s Birthday. Or as the kids call it nowadays, “President’s Day.” It seems wrong that if it is President’s Day we should hold in equal esteem the likes of James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce and William Henry Harrison with those of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. Your Maximum Leader would prefer that we just go back to it being Washington’s Birthday. He would even tolerate Washington & Lincoln Day…

As he has done in years past… Here is your Maximum Leader’s list of the 10 Greatest Presidents of these United States (the list shows movement from the last time he updated the list):

1) George Washington. (No change) The first president, and the overriding shaper of the office. He set down many of the precedents that still function today. He established the cabinet system, and gave shape to the executive branch. He set down the major goals of US foreign policy (shunning entangling alliances) which held until (arguably) the Second World War. He also flexed (for the first time) federal supremacy over the states by putting down rebellions in Pennsylvania.

2) Abraham Lincoln. (No change) He saved the Union.

3) Franklin Roosevelt. (No change) Created the modern presidency (characterized by a strong executive). He also created the modern federal government (characterized by not only supreme federal authority but by an all-intrusive federal government).

4) James Knox Polk. (No change) Your Maximum Leader has always believed in the greatness of James K. Polk (”Young Hickory” as he was known). Polk promised four things would be accomplished during his presidency. 1 - the Indian question in the south would be resolved; 2 - Texas would enter the Union; 3 - California would become part of the US; 4- a northern border with Canada west of the great lakes would be fixed. (He also promised to resolve unsettled tariff policy issues.) Polk said if these four things were not done in his four years, he would not seek another term. During his term he: sent the army in to round up and move the Indians in the south, he faught a war with Mexico and acquired Texas, California, and other western lands. He was (thanks to British/Canadian intransigence) unable to negotiate a northern border with Canada. He refused to run for a second term, and retired. (Your Maximum Leader will also add that he died shortly after leaving office - which your Maximum Leader also thinks is a generally good thing for ex-presidents to do.)

5) Theodore Roosevelt. (Number 6 last year) He started moving the nation towards global superpower status. Started necessary progressive changes and sensible regulation of the American economy that improved and expanded the middle-class.

6) Ronald Reagan. (Number 5 last year) He redefined the role of the modern federal government. (If you don’t think so, look at the administration of Bill Clinton and guess again.) And he won the Cold War. He was dropped by one position from last year due to his over-delegation of leadership in his second term - and the trouble it got him into.

7) Harry Truman. (No change) Had a tough act to follow, but did very well at it. Used the Bomb to end the war. Nationalized the Coal industry to break an illegal strike. Suddenly woke up and smelled the coffee concerning Soviet aggression and started defending US interests against communists.

8 ) Andrew Jackson. (No change) Andrew Jackson deserved credit (or blame - pick ‘em) for the populist streak in American politics. He was the first “outsider” elected President and has a record to prove it. Expanding the franchise (by eliminating the property requirement to voting). Drastically expanding the use of the veto to expand Presidential power. Killing the Bank of the United States (and with it some financial stability in our young nation). His was a very important and consequential Presidency. He doesn’t have many fans nowadays (and perhaps doesn’t deserve many) but his left a great mark on the nation.

9) Dwight D. Eisenhower. (Not listed) A remarkable administrator and manager of world affairs. He oversaw tremendous peacetime prosperity and growth. He preserved American power and prestige and promoted American values around the world while European nations shed their empires. He managed the Cold War and prevented it from getting hot. He is an underrated President worthy of more attention.

10) John Adams & Lyndon B Johnson. (A tie, your Maximum Leader’s first) Although Adams’ presidency is not noteworthy for many reasons; Adams needs to be given credit for stepping aside peacefully when he lost the Election of 1800. Peaceful transition from one office-holder to another is a little-valued tendency in the US, Britain, Canada, Austrailia and Western Democracies. As for LBJ… It is hard to overlook the most consequential application of federal authority over life in America since FDR. Civil Rights. Medicaid. Medicare. The modern welfare state really is the accomplishment of LBJ. That merits a place on the list…

There you have it…

Feel free to tell your Maximum Leader how he’s wrong if you like… Or shower him with your praise of his brilliance… Either will be appreciated.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Tweety-box.

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