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The More Things Change…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has found himself wondering about his political leanings. It would be wrong to say that the old lark from Ronald Reagan hasn’t crossed his mind a few times. You remember the one. Reagan said that he didn’t leave the Democrat party, the Democrat party left him. Well… It isn’t quite the same, but your Maximum Leader wonders exactly how his own political views, and they apply in a practical way in America today, have changed.

At some level your Maximum Leader doesn’t think his politics have changed much. But political discourse (such as it is) has gone in a way that he just doesn’t care for. Your Maximum Leader would still call himself a Conservative in almost all cases. He thinks he is more a Conservative with Libertarian tendencies. In some instances he would even call himself a Republican.

Your Maximum Leader finds himself looking at the Presidencies of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon and seeing more and more that he likes. Of course, he says the same thing when looking at Ronald Reagan. Sometimes he looks back at the great Theodore Roosevelt and sees a lot to like.

They were, compared to today, different ages.

Your Maximum Leader recalls some old line that goes something to the effect that “the next Marlon Brando wont be anything like the last Marlon Brando. We should say the same thing about the “next Ronald Reagan.” He’ll not be anything like the last one. In large part because he doesn’t have to be. Reagan’s time is gone. It is fading, even now, into distant history. Your Maximum Leader’s children are being taught (poorly in many cases) about history that your Maximum Leader remembers living through. The next Reagan doesn’t need to win the Cold War; that is done. The next Nixon doesn’t need to open China or start Detente with the Soviets; that is past. The next Eisenhower doesn’t need to end the Korean War, build interstate highways and stabilize the West after WWII; that was done (but is coming undone). The next Theodore Roosevelt doesn’t need to bust trusts, build a great Navy, flex US muscles and move forward Progressive reforms; done (but perhaps coming undone).

It was in thinking about the past that your Maximum Leader had a little mini-epiphany about his politics. The problem with politicians, at least of the right, is they don’t seem to be forward looking. Your Maximum Leader has for years admired the old William F. Buckley adage of standing athwart history yelling stop. As your Maximum Leader has grown older he’s come to believe that politicians of the right have got to not only yell stop; but suggest a path forward. That path forward cannot just be an exhortation to go back to the way things were.

Your Maximum Leader is guilty, as he suspects we all are to some degree, of looking back more fondly on a remembered past that is remembered better than it was lived. He finds he has to lift the gauze from his own memories when looking backwards and be more critical of what he sees in the past. He must strive to find balance. A balance that needs to be restored across the board. The past is never quite as good or bad as one wants to make it out to be. The 50’s might not have been the greatest time in history for women or minorities in America - when compared to 2015. But the 50’s in America for women and minorities was better than the 1930s, 1920s or 1880s for them.

So what does all this have to do with your Maximum Leader’s politics?

Well… Certain core items have not changed at all (or at least not very much) for your Maximum Leader. He still is a strong believer of limited government. He is a strong believer in personal liberty and freedom. His first reaction to appeals to the “greater common good” is skepticism and negativity. But how these all pan out in America today seem to be changing…

Let us say that your Maximum Leader has decided, for himself of course, that there are things the government needs to do. And in those things it must do them well. To do them well may not always mean to do them cheaply, or in a way that makes everyone feel good about themselves. It means do them well…

Let us take a few broad items that most people living in the United States would consider things the government should do… And since, in the United States we live under a multi-tiered government let me start with the lowest level of government. One’s county or state government.

As Government teachers (aka: Political Scientists - a term for which your Maximum Leader has a fair degree of contempt to be honest) have lamented for ages, local government has the most affect on a person’s daily life - and is the one to which most people pay the least attention. Your local government is most likely responsible for a few things that are remarkably important for the functioning of civilization. Police & Fire/Rescue, education, and property use. If your county is anything like mine, it is funded by property taxes. Your taxes go to provide for Police & Fire/Rescue, local schools, and how your county is “developed.” Your Maximum Leader thinks that we can all agree that most people are in favor of Police & Fire/Rescue services. All but the most hardcore libertarians and anarchists are in favor of them at any rate. And most people would want those services to be provided by well-trained, well-equipped and competent people. That training, equipment and recruitment and retention of people all comes from your tax money. When you don’t want to pay those taxes, your Police/Fire/Rescue services all suffer. The same goes for education. If you want well-trained, well-equipped and competent teachers; you have to shell out some money in taxes. In fact, your Maximum Leader is happy to pay a few cents more on the dollar in real estate tax in order to assure that the Policemen, Firemen, Rescue Teams and Teachers are the best possible. It seems a little fool-hearty to save $100 a year in property taxes if it means that good teachers are going to leave the county for more money in the next county over… Then there is property usage… If you like green hills, wood and rolling farmland in your neck of the woods, then you have to pay for that too. Your Maximum Leader is sure that your county has laws on the books telling you what you can and can’t do with your land. Those same laws tell developers what they can build in your county. Those laws need enforcement - enforcement costs money. If you don’t want a 500 home community going in across the road from your house, that costs money too. It costs you in more property taxes. If your county can’t develop land, and you still want them to provide services; it will cost you more. You are paying the opportunity cost of not having 500 neighbors (all paying property taxes) across the road from you.

NB on Education: Here is a libertarian streak your Maximum Leader has. Public education. As a society we seem to have come to the common agreement that it is the role of government to fund and provide education to all. Your Maximum Leader is a strong supporter of education as the bedrock upon which a strong republic rests. But he honestly isn’t committed to the idea that the government has to provide that education. He is completely open to the government not collecting any of his money to support education and having the free market provide schools and educational opportunities for children and adults. Your Maximum Leader is sure this idea is a complete non-starter. But he wants to throw out there that there are some things the government DOES that it DOESN’T NECESSARILY HAVE to do. Your Maximum Leader’s point here is that if the government is going to do something - particularly at the level closest to me and most responsive to my input - it ought to do it well. If the state is going to do a half-assed job of educating children; then perhaps the state shouldn’t educate children.

NB on Education Part Deux: If there are any “liberals” reading this (which frankly your Maximum Leader highly doubts); you guys do a lot of complaining about “religious freaks” taking over school boards and “getting rid of science” to teach “intelligent design” or “creationism.” Do you all know how to stop this from happening? Vote in a friggin’ election for school board you morons! Take my own voting district in my county. In the last election for our school board member (2013), there were 5,058 votes cast. The winner won by a margin of 449 votes. For comparative purposes, Barack Obama garnered 5,380 votes in the same district in 2012 and lost to Mitt Romney (who got 6,707 votes). If you are fearful that your school board is going to be “taken over” by “weirdos” it would help your cause to vote against the “weirdos.” For the record, my own school board member (Hey Scott!) is not a weirdo.

Moving up from the local government - the most essential level of government in your Maximum Leader’s opinion - is the state government. As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows, your Maximum Leader is generally well-disposed to his state government. Sure he thinks that his current governor is a smarmy political hack; but our governor is only half of the equation. The legislature is the other half. And all in all the friction between the two is a good thing. Lets also think of things our state government does that everyone agrees it should do. Strangely enough we come back to police and education; but we add infrastructure to that as well. Of course your state does more than those items. Here in Virginia the Governor has wanted to dramatically increase the amount of Medicare spending (and take advantage of Federal dollars for the same). The legislature blocked that move on the grounds that the Feds might be paying now, but they probably will not be forever and once you take on the spending you can’t “un-take” it. (A position supported by your Maximum Leader by the way.) It is at the state level that one can really begin arguing over the role of government and what is should or shouldn’t support through your tax dollars. Your Maximum Leader generally favors spending on education and roads, and is less inclined towards other spending.

Of course, your Maximum Leader also realizes that we live in a republic and his voice is not the only voice in the conversation. So he recognizes that as much as he would often like complete stalemate and nothing be done (and nothing is often a wise and desirable political outcome) that isn’t going to happen. As much as he doesn’t like it, he lives with a Democrat Governor and a Republican Legislature and the two are going to have to compromise to get anything done. And here’s the rub… Something, even small things, has to get done. Ultimately the majority of people are going to be dissatisfied if nothing - truly nothing - gets done. They will cast the blame where they may; but in the end people aren’t going to stand for no schools, no roads, and no police/courts/prisons etc… The people will stand for “things aren’t changing this year from last year” but they will not stand for “everything is closed because we can’t agree.” Sometimes, in critical issues, half a loaf is better than no loaf. (We all prefer to get 3/4 a loaf of course, but is isn’t always going to happen. And people who are often stuck with the 1/4 loaf start to get mighty resentful…)

Then there is the Federal level. The most distant level of government. The most costly level of government. The most dysfunctional level of government. It is at the level of the Federal government that your Maximum Leaders beliefs have changed (he thinks) the least. The Federal Government of the United States is bloated, ineffective, and has its tentacles in things it has no business being in. Federal education policy - crap. Federal housing and urban development policy - crap. Indeed, in your Maximum Leader’s view the Federal government should be busy keeping the nation safe, conducting foreign affairs, broadly regulating interstate commerce and that is about it.

To read that last paragraph you are probably thinking that your Maximum Leader has lots in common with Herbert Hoover. Well… Yes and no… Certainly in an intellectual sense your Maximum Leader is rather aligned with that Pre-New Deal vision of America. But that America is gone. That America is not coming back. Ron Paul and all the Libertarians out there can burn me in effigy now. We aren’t going back to that era in our history…

This is where your Maximum Leader thinks that people of the Right need to have a vision of America moving forward. For years your Maximum Leader has (as Ronald Reagan did) advocate the elimination of the US Department of Education. Well… Guess what… It ain’t happening. But what could happen is that the Department of Education could be reformed and greatly reduced. It could be more of a US Department of Educational Resources and Standards. It could be like a think tank that state and local governments could access to make their own systems work more effectively. It could be a clearing house for ideas about Education.

Think about healthcare. The largest parts of the Federal budget are Medicaid and Medicare spending (and one supposes spending on the Affordable Care Act is in there too). Frankly these are areas that your Maximum Leader feels the Federal government shouldn’t be involved in. Period. But at this stage a full roll-back isn’t going to happen. It isn’t going to happen for Medicaid or Medicare. And frankly it is getting to the point were it isn’t going to happen with ACA either. A plan is needed by the Right to move forward. Your Maximum Leader liked a plan so much that he blogged about it back in 2004. Your Maximum Leader is saying that alternatives need to be out there - not just standing athwart history yelling stop.

So that’s the screed… Such as it is… Is your Maximum Leader growing more liberal in his old age? Probably not. Is he getting a little more nuanced? Perhaps. Is he feeling less and less like he can identify with politicians seeking to represent him? Certainly…

If some of your Maximum Leader’s more conservative friends feel the need to revoke his conservative card and drum him out of the movement… So be it. As you can read here… I denounce myself…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Political Leaning Quiz & Washington Quiz

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader saw, a few days (weeks?) ago a political quiz over on Kevin’s site. He is a sucker for these things so he took the quiz. Here are his results:

 on political map

No big surprise there. Of course, if you like you can take the test by clicking here.

Your Maximum Leader will say that he does think he is trending a little more “liberal” in some aspect of his thinking. But these “liberal” tendencies are manifesting themselves in local issues concerning school funding and real estate tax levels in his county…

Your Maximum Leader also hopes that you didn’t miss George Washington’s 283rd birthday. (Which was yesterday.) As readers (such as there may still be) know, your Maximum Leader is a huge fan of George Washington and believes that we (Americans) need to study him a little more in hopes of raising civic awareness (and perhaps even civic virtue).

Here are some quizzes to test your what you know about the Father of our Country.

Quiz 1 click here. (Your Maximum Leader scored 15 of 15 on this quiz.)

There is a second (harder) quiz on Washington. Quiz 2 (the smarty pants edition) is here. Your Maximum Leader (sadly) only got 12 of 15 on the really hard quiz. Though in his defense, of the three he missed, had narrowed the choices to the correct answer (that he didn’t choose) and an incorrect answer…

There you are. Toast George Washington and think about his service to our great nation…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

La France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hear him out on this.

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

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

That is the Franco-American relationship.

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

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

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

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

Anyhow… Those are some thoughts on France…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Triumphant (+209 years)

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader now posts for your viewing pleasure his annual tribute to Lord Nelson and the hearty Tars of the Royal Navy - the Victors of Trafalgar.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will be lifting his glass today to toast Admiral Lord Nelson and the hearty tars of the Royal Navy as he celebrates the 209th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

On this day in 1805, Lord Nelson led the fleet into combat against the combined French and Spanish fleets off Cape Trafalgar. By the end of the day the Franco-Spanish force was destroyed or driven to port. Any hope Napoleon had for invading Britain was dashed that day. The battle also resulted in about 100 years of complete naval supremacy by Britain over the seas of the world.

The late and very lamented hero of the hour:

Nelson himself.
Lord Nelson.

Nelson’s plan called for the fleet to be divided into two columns. The two columns would be sailed (under tremendous fire) into the Franco-Spanish line in a way that would bisect that line in two places.

Nelson

Before the battle Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, flew the following signal:

Nelson is shot
England expects that every man will do his D - U - T - Y.

And over the course of the day, every British sailor did his duty.

Nelson is shot
During the course of the fighting Nelson was killed by a sniper.

Nelson’s body was preserved in rum and returned to a joyful nation who interred the hero in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Nelson’s Tomb St.Paul’s
Nelson’s Tomb St.Paul’s

Your Maximum Leader hopes that all you Anglophiles (and lovers of the fruits of the Anglo-Western tradition that we continue to enjoy in the US) will remember the great service done on behalf of civilization by Lord Nelson and the men of the Royal Navy over two hundred years ago.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

More Musings on Scottish Independence

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader continues to ruminate on the idea of Scottish independence. Depending on who you read and believe, the “No” vote might still be ahead in the polls. Your Maximum Leader thinks it is generally agreed that it is pretty much neck and neck. It will be the proverbial photo finish.

As your Maximum Leader re-read his previous comments on this matter, he doesn’t have much new to say. He could (and will) point out some of the contradictions (or unreasonable aspirations) of the “Yes” campaign. Here are but a few: Scotland will be a member of NATO - but Scotland is going to throw out the nuclear sub bases from Glasgow and the Clyde. Those subs are a key part of NATO. Scotland will keep the pound - but the Bank of England isn’t going to give Scotland any control over the pound and Scottish banks are preparing to move south and to have to increase cash reserves. Scotland will be a part of the EU - but the EU says that Scotland will have to apply to join, a change of status isn’t going to cut it. (Also about the EU, the EU requires new members to adopt the Euro. So IF Scotland is allowed to join, they will use the Euro and have their monetary policy governed by the Bundesbank.) Scotland will have all the North Sea Oil money, and little of the UK’s debt - but England, Wales and Northern Ireland are going to (rightfully) insist that Scotland assume some portion of the debt.

If you’ve read anything about this campaign, you’ve heard all that. And if it didn’t convince you before, it didn’t convince you just then.

The more your Maximum Leader thought about it, the more he realized that Scottish independence is really another in a long line of “feel-good aspirational” movements. Frankly, as aspirational stories go, Scotland’s would be a great one. Country with a long (and storied - read bloody) history joins with historical enemy. They become frenemies for 300 years. But for those 300 years, Scotland feels like the junior partner. To be honest, though the 300 years are replete with examples of Scots doing great things around the world - shaping the whole world, quite literally; the majority of Scots feel like they are just put upon by the English. Western society “progresses” and Scots begin to think that they would be better off taking over their own affairs. So they agitate a bit (something Scots are particularly good at) and get more political power devolved down to their newly re-established parliament. Once they get some power, they want more. Eventually, they think that they should have complete self-determination and breakup with their frenemy. In the end it all boils down to “If we can do it ourselves it will all be better.”

There is a wonderful, childlike, and actually quite un-Scottish naive optimism behind the “Yes” movement. No matter what perceived roadblocks there might be, the attitude remains that it will be better if we have the right to control all our own affairs. Not sure what the currency will be? No problem. We’ll work out something. Want to join a military alliance that might be put out that you just kicked that alliances’ submarines out of your reformed country? No worries! We can come to some arrangement. Want to join the big free-trade zone that you’ve enjoyed commerce with for over 50 years even if they might not want you? No problem, we’ll smooth that out.

To be quite honest, your Maximum Leader believes that if Scotland votes for independence (and he still hopes they don’t) they probably will sort out most of these issues. It will not be without a whole lot of toil, tears, and sweat (probably not much bloodshed - thankfully - but this is Scotland and there may be some fist fighting and bloody noses). Scotland might go through a long(-ish) period of economic depression and might find itself in a bad way in lots of areas. But in the end, they will pull through. The more your Maximum Leader thinks on it, the more he thinks that in the very long term and independent Scotland would wind up somewhere between Ireland and Greece in the scheme of the EU. Now being Ireland or Greece isn’t much to speak of now, over the long haul it isn’t so bad.

Then one can think of the repercussions of Scottish independence and how they might pan out… English side-effects would likely be that Tory governments will be elected more often in England and England will further limiting it’s role in the EU. Scotland might need to attract highly-educated workers to stimulate the economy. They might institute some sort of “right of return” and enable your Maximum Leader to get a Scottish passport and claim Scottish citizenship. (Which might be appealing come retirement time…) If Scotland gets into the EU; then Catalonia, the Veneto and the Basque areas could all become independent states. It is mind-boggling to think about….

Of course, the mind-boggling requires pretty rosy glasses and more than a nip or two of the ole uisge beatha.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Musings on Scottish Independence

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

Your Maximum Leader is deeply conflicted on this question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Richard the Third - RIP (next March)

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader asks that you remember Richard III, King of England (as he does this time of year). (NB: This is mostly a repost of that which appears here year after year.) He was killed in battle at Bosworth this day in 1485. He fought valiantly, if not triumphantly. He was the last Plantagenet to rule England. He was the last King of England to die in battle. And his death marks the generally accepted end of both the Wars of the Roses and the medieval period in England.

richard_iii_of_england.jpg

It is from Shakespeare’s play Richard III that the name of this site is taken. The important lines come in Act One, Scene III:

But then I sigh; and, with a piece of scripture,
Tell them that God bids us do good for evil:
And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.

Richard is, in your Maximum Leader’s opinion, one of the most maligned kings in all history. Shakespeare’s play, while vastly entertaining, is far from an accurate portrayal of history and the man as we now know him.

Your Maximum Leader, out of habit, will republish the famous Rex Stout New York Times obituary for King Richard:

“PLANTAGENET — Richard, great king and true friend of the rights of man, died at Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485. Murdered by traitors and, dead, maligned by knaves and ignored by Laodiceans, he merits our devoted remembrance.”

For those of you interested in learning more about Richard you might try the following links: Battle of Bosworth Field from Wikipedia, or the general Wiki on Richard.

GENERAL UPDATE: Since the recent exhumation of the remains of Richard the Third we have learned so much about him. For instance, he liked indulged in rich foods and wine while King. (Which frankly should be a perk of kingship.) He was brutally killed in combat. (Which we knew but now have evidence of.) And now we know that he will be (re-)buried next March in a rather handsome tomb in Leicester Cathedral.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Middle East Diatribing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Syria is still fighting it out.

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

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

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

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

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

Guess what. That was a monumentally stupid fucking call.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Happy Birfday ‘Murica

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has had a busy 4th of July, Independence Day as it were.

He visited his sainted in-laws briefly and then returned to the Villainschloss.

Tomorrow, he departs for the Great White North. Oh Canada!

Yes, he is taking the family for a little trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls.

See you all around.

Carry on.

Check out your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

William Paul’s Brother & Stuff

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader needed to write something to move his Easter piece down some. Certainly observant Catholics and Orthodox adherents will know that we are still in the Easter season; but it is time for this small corner of the interwebs to move along.

So, Mrs. Villain wanted to do something fun for Mother’s Day. We decided the fun thing to do would be to go to Annapolis, MD for the day. Your Maximum Leader put his usual avoidance of the whole state of Maryland on hold for the day and went with the family. Indeed, it was a wonderful day all in all. The weather was bright and wonderful. The city is always pretty, and was so during our visit. It was crowded, but that is to be expected.

We didn’t have much of a plan in going. But we did have a few things that Mrs. Villain said she wanted to do. She wanted to visit the US Naval Academy and (on your Maximum Leader’s suggestion) see the gardens at the William Paca house*. We did just that. Your Maximum Leader and Mrs Villain hadn’t been to Annapolis in about 15 years. Indeed, during our last visit we also walked around the grounds of the Naval Academy. Proof of this is that we have a photo of a year old Villainette #1 sitting in a flower bed near the Herndon monument. Your Maximum Leader recalls how (a pregnant) Mrs Villain carried the little Villainette into the flower bed, propped her up and stepped out of the flower bed to take the photo. He also recalls some Midshipmen looking on horror as this happened. Your Maximum Leader generally isn’t much for putting babies in well-groomed flower beds at military facilities as a matter of course. But then again, your Maximum Leader is generally in favor of letting a pregnant woman do what she wants to do within reason. And staging a photo in a flower bed didn’t seem at the time to be too unreasonable.

Anyhoo…

We took the guided tour of the Naval Academy. Our tour guide was very pleasant, but he spoke both rapidly and quietly. If your Maximum Leader were to guess, he would say that our guide was originally from Maine as well. The combination of a quick-talking, hushed-toned New Englander and a large group made it hard for us to hear all he said. Indeed, your Maximum Leader and the Wee Villain made it a point to get close and listen. Mrs Villain and the Villainettes stood near the back of the group and later complained that they only heard about 15% of what was said (and the Villainettes said they understood only about 75% of what they did hear). (NB: Apparently our New Englander relatives aren’t accented enough for the Villainettes to have “picked up” listening to and understanding the accent.)

The Naval Academy tour ends with visiting the tomb of John Paul Jones. During the tour John Paul Jones (along with other naval luminaries) was mentioned quite a bit. During the discussions of Paul Jones, your Maximum Leader had a nagging feeling in his brain that there was some sort of “connection” between Paul Jones and himself. Not an ancestral connection; but another sort of connection.

Eventually (after arriving back at the Villainschloss), your Maximum Leader went onto Wikipaedia and looked up John Paul Jones. There was the connection! John Paul Jones, before joining the fledgling Continental (soon-to-be United States) Navy, was a frequent visitor of his older brother, William Paul. William Paul was a tailor in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Your Maximum Leader lives in Fredericksburg, VA and remembered seeing the grave of William Paul in the burying ground of St. George’s Episcopal Church. He also seemed to remember that he’d once seen a historical marker on a house in town that indicated that the house was William Paul’s house.

Thus started your Maximum Leader’s little “John Paul Jones” kick. Your Maximum Leader walked by St George’s and saw William Paul’s grave (embellished as it is now by “admirers” of his younger brother). He also walked on down to 501 Caroline Street in Fredericksburg and saw the plaque indicating that the house was that of William Paul and was where John Paul Jones stayed during his frequent visits to Fredericksburg.

Then your Maximum Leader decided he needed to know more about our nation’s first great naval hero, so he logged onto The Facebook and tried to bug our friend Robbo to see if he could recommend a biography of Paul Jones. Ultimately, your Maximum Leader went with “John Paul Jones: A Sailor’s Biography” by Samuel Eliot Morison. Your Maximum Leader is a fan of Morison and figured that this Pulitzer winning biography couldn’t be bad. Indeed, it is not disappointing your Maximum Leader. He is about a third of the way through and enjoying it very much.

So, there you have it. Your Maximum Leader’s (tenuous) connection to John Paul Jones.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader would have liked to have had the money when the William Paul house was last on the market. It was purchased for $150,000 a few years back. It is currently undergoing some restoration. Although he isn’t sure that he would want to own a nearly 300 year old house, it would have been cool and had some story value…)

Moving along to the other “stuff” mentioned in the header of this post…

Well… There isn’t much other stuff that your Maximum Leader is inclined to blog about. The day is beautiful and he might take his book and read outside for a little while. Thanks to the many inches of rain that has fallen upon this area in the past few weeks, the pollen isn’t as bad as it could be. On the other hand, the Villainschloss lawn has gone to seed. Literally, the grass has grown tall enough to go to seed. This is because your Maximum Leader’s lawn mower is in the shop and awaiting new blades. The old blades haven given up the ghost after 11 years of useful service. Thankfully, replacing the blades is all that was needed since the Honda engine is going strong and will likely give another 11 years of useful service.

Perhaps there is another post loitering around in your Maximum Leader’s brain that he will let fall out into the ether…

Until then…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

* - By the way, the gardens at the William Paca House were past their prime. One imagines that in a few weeks they will be bouncing back with some more flowering plants. Apparently we visited during the in-between time…

Is this a post I see before me?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader makes two posts in two days. Think of it. It is like we are back to the halcyon days of 2004 or something…

Okay. That was a big buildup for very little payout. Your Maximum Leader apologizes in advance. (If anyone out there is reading this…)

So, your Maximum Leader forgot to note the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Hobbes last weekend. The man labeled on the right side link bar of this site as “Our Philosopher” would have turned 426 on April 5. Your Maximum Leader has not, until the very moment that he typed these words, bothered to think about the accuracy of the birthday given that it was prior to the New Style Act of 1750. Regardless… April 5th it shall be for your Maximum Leader.

Speaking of ole Thomas Hobbes… Your Maximum Leader has begun over the past years to feel he is getting more stupid. He is forgetting things he used to know. What is worse, he has a lingering knowledge that he USED to know something that he’s now unable to recall. Contemplating Hobbes’ birthday reminded your Maximum Leader that other than the “common” things that any student of history and government would recall; he’s forgotten much of the detail he used to know about Hobbes’ works. This could likely be remedied by a re-reading of Leviathan and other works. But there is some inertia or laziness that keeps him from getting motivated to do so…

This inertia has also manifested itself in your Maximum Leader’s Lenten observances. Your Maximum Leader has tried not to make a big deal of it, but he’s been doing much better at being an observant Catholic over the past years. Without trying to sound hypocritical, he’s been very outwardly observant. But there is a lot to be desired in his inner spiritual life. This Lent has been one of disappointment. Unlike many Catholics, your Maximum Leader doesn’t try to “give up” something for Lent; but rather (and the suggestion of a priest many many years ago) “DO” something that will improve and grow your faith and well-being. This year your Maximum Leader resolved to read & contemplate some of the writings of his name saint, Augustine of Hippo. The plan was to read from Augustine’s writings, then take a nice long walk to contemplate what he’d just read. Well, how many times has that pairing happened? Exactly zero times. He’s walked. He’s read (though very lightly). But the pairing has not occurred. This is a Lenten resolution that will likely have to outlive Lent in order to give your Maximum Leader a feeling of accomplishing something.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader is exceedingly pleased at how his Washington Nationals are performing out of the starting blocks of this 2014 baseball season. They have done well against the Mets and Marlins. They took 1 of 3 against the Braves with another series against the Braves (in Atlanta) coming up. He hopes they continue to be strong and get a nice cushion of wins under their proverbial belts before the middle of the season. These early wins are very valuable over 162 games.

If your Maximum Leader can find the motivation and time, he hopes to write a short essay on independence movements in Europe. It is something he’s been thinking about off and on with all the news out of Scotland, Catalonia, Venice and Ukraine…

That is all for now…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

President’s Day 2014

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that today is President’s Day. Or as he likes to call it, Washington’s Birthday. In the interest of putting something up here… Here is a partial repost of your Maximum Leader’s list of the Greatest US Presidents EVAH!

For what it is worth, the criteria for greatness listed must be restricted to their presidential careers. For example, if you wanted to claim (wrongly) that U.S. Grant was one of the greatest presidents you could not cite his Civil War record as “proof” of greatness. (However, for Grant you could cite the widespread corruption of his administration as a model for future corrupt presidential administrations.) Any reader who sends in a list will have his list published (with possible editorial commentary from your Maximum Leader).

To preview your Maximum Leader’s list, he presents his top five:

1) George Washington. 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. He saved the Union.

3) Franklin Roosevelt. 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. Your Maximum Leader has long been a torch bearer for Polk. He has always believed in the greatness of James K. Polk. 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 geat lakes would be fixed. 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) Ronald Reagan. 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.

Aside: It is your Maximum Leader’s belief that Ronald Reagan will be the last true ideological president we will elect. With the 24 hour news cycle what it is (and the high level of scrutiny that candidates go through) it is so improbable that any “true believer” of any political stripe will be elected. We will be stuck with left-center, right-center, or center candidates from now on.

There you have it…

Also for what it is worth, your Maximum Leader is very distressed by President Obama trying (and so far being somewhat successful) to bypass Congress and governing by Executive Order. It is dangerous to our system of government. It is dangerous to Liberty. Sadly, this is what happens when people don’t have a concept of liberty…

Carry on.

Triumphant (+208 years)

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader now posts for your viewing pleasure his annual tribute to Lord Nelson and the hearty Tars of the Royal Navy - the Victors of Trafalgar.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will be lifting his glass today to toast Admiral Lord Nelson and the hearty tars of the Royal Navy as he celebrates the 208th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

On this day in 1805, Lord Nelson led the fleet into combat against the combined French and Spanish fleets off Cape Trafalgar. By the end of the day the Franco-Spanish force was destroyed or driven to port. Any hope Napoleon had for invading Britain was dashed that day. The battle also resulted in about 100 years of complete naval supremacy by Britain over the seas of the world.

The late and very lamented hero of the hour:

Lord Nelson.

Nelson’s plan called for the fleet to be divided into two columns. The two columns would be sailed (under tremendous fire) into the Franco-Spanish line in a way that would bisect that line in two places.

Before the battle Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, flew the following signal:

England expects that every man will do his D - U - T - Y.

And over the course of the day, every British sailor did his duty.

During the course of the fighting Nelson was killed by a sniper.

Nelson’s body was preserved in rum and returned to a joyful nation who interred the hero in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Nelson’s Tomb St.Paul’s

Your Maximum Leader hopes that all you Anglophiles (and lovers of the fruits of the Anglo-Western tradition that we continue to enjoy in the US) will remember the great service done on behalf of civilization by Lord Nelson and the men of the Royal Navy over two hundred years ago.

[In 2007] years ago when this post first ran, there was some discussion in the comments as to whether Trafalgar was (as you Maximum Leader billed it) the greatest naval victory in the history of the world. Among the other contenders were: Salamis, Actium, Lepanto, Tsushima and Midway.

Your Maximum Leader will let you all decide which of these famous battles might be the greatest naval battle in the history of the world… [But for him it will remain Trafalgar.]

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

Fool me once…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been thinking a lot about Syria and our impending march towards some sort of military action against the Syrian regime. Here is some of what he is thinking…

Let him begin by looking backwards before he looks forward… Your Maximum Leader fully supported the actions of the Bush Administration in Afghanistan and Iraq. He went so far as to go back and find some old emails he exchanged with friends at the time in order to confirm what he is about to write was accurate… He supported the Iraq War not because he expected to find weapons of mass destruction, or that there was some imminent threat to the United States. (Although, he did expect to find WMD. He wasn’t sure that Iraq posed an imminent threat to any specific US interest.) He supported the Iraq War because he believed at the time that it was time to try something to “shake up” the Middle East, which has been more or less politically ossified since the 1970s. He reasoned that if Saddam Hussein was overthrown and replaced the region might experience some positive change towards resolving some of the more or less intractable issues that have befouled the area. He believed at the time that Iraq was not ready for full western-style democracy, but might be ready for some sort of constitutional system (he speculated at the time that a monarch might be a suitable moderating influence on a reasonably-democratic Iraq). While he wouldn’t identify himself as a “neocon,” insofar as war in Iraq was concerned; he supported the “neocon” agenda in the run up to war.

While looking through the old emails he referenced a few lines ago, he found one in which he expressed confidence that the Bush Administration had a plan that spelled out our goals, objectives and actions to take once the war started. Your Maximum Leader, at the time, would have bet money (not a lot, but some) that we had a thoughtful plan for the invasion and aftermath of Iraq. Afterall, this was the Department of Defense that had plans that assumed that Canada was going to invade the US. If we had a plan to take out Canada, we surely had a plan for a legitimate possible enemy in Iraq. At the time is wasn’t important that we, the US public, know what the plan was. It was stupid to telegraph our plans to the Iraqis and tip our hand. So back then it wasn’t important to know what the plan was, because we surely had a plan.

Well… Was your Maximum Leader wrong on that count. The Bush Administration didn’t have a plan. Not only that, they dealt poorly with the situation on the ground for far too long. By the time the Bush Administration wised up, the damage was done and we’d screwed the pooch in Iraq.

So… Needless to say… Your Maximum Leader isn’t as sanguine now as he was then when it comes to US intervention in the Middle East.

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring and in light of the ongoing unrest in Egypt, your Maximum Leader is really reticent about putting a US soldier anywhere in the Middle East. Frankly, he’s equally reticent about dropping bombs or shooting missiles into the region.

So we find ourselves faced with the prospect of military action against the Syrian regime.

Here are a few things your Maximum Leader believes about this situation. First, the Assad regime is evil and they are capable of using chemical weapons against their populace. Secondly, he believes that chemical weapons were in fact used on the people of Syria. Third, he does believe that when a regime (or group, or individual) uses chemical weapons they deserve to be punished as harshly as possible by the whole international community.

Let us look a little more at Syria. After the uprisings of the Arab Spring (and after seeing what the US did in Iraq), Bashir Assad probably had a thought. That thought probably went something like this: “Holy shit! Common people are rising up and really screwing over the people that have been screwing them over for decades. Hey! My dad and I have been screwing the people here for decades. Fuuuuuuuuccccckkk. I could be next. Well you know what isn’t going to happen to me? I’m not gonna be overthrown and put in jail like Mubarak. I’m not going to be hanged like Saddam. And sure as shit I’m not going to die in some drainpipe by the side of the road like Gaddafi. I’m gonna hold out to the bitter end and go like Tony Montana if I wind up losing.”

Thus you have a civil war in Syria that has been going on now for years.

Bashir Assad has now gotten in more desperate straits and has used chemical weapons against his internal enemies. He deserves everything (and more) coming to him…

But how do we deliver what should justifiably be coming to Assad and his regime.

Aye. There’s the rub.

According to all your Maximum Leader has read, the goal of the United States would be to punish the Assad regime for using chemical weapons. Our goal is not regime change. Our plan, such as it is, is to drop bombs and missiles on “targets” of some sort to get our message across. And by the way, the Brits aren’t with us. On the other hand the French and Aussies are. (NB: God Bless the Aussies. Your Maximum Leader loves Australia and frankly every Aussie he’s ever met personally.)

So what the hell are we to do? Your Maximum Leader agrees with President Obama in as much as Syria should suffer some severe consequence for using chemical weapons. But unlike President Obama, your Maximum Leader isn’t sure WHAT the US can do that would be effective in any way.

Your Maximum Leader would, ordinarily, be upset at the Obama Administration for telegraphing their lack of a plan to the Syrians. But in light of what he’s learned from the Bush Administration… If you don’t have a legitimate plan for military action, it is probably best not to undertake that action.

If you want you can call your Maximum Leader a partisan hack for supporting a war started by a president he supported; but not supporting one that a president he didn’t support wants to start; he supposes that could be a fair criticism. But, your Maximum Leader really has changed. Look, he was willing to try the untried path once. That wasn’t very conservative of him. But sometimes you can look over the long course of history in a region like the Middle East and realize that major shakeups are the only events that change the region. He figured a major change led by a positive actor like the United States would affect a positive change. Your Maximum Leader was wrong on that. Sadly, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle and we are stuck with the fruits of our ill-conceived adventurism.

In your Maximum Leader’s opinion, there isn’t anything the United States can do right now that would have any positive affect on Syria, the region or the world. He’s open to listening to anyone with a plan. He believes it is possible to convince him to change his mind. But it might be an uphill battle right now. He would be inclined to go back to a Cold War methodology and have our friends and allies take action that we support. But in the Middle East right now we have only one real friend (Israel - of course) and he can’t see a course of action by Israel that would ameliorate the situation in any way.

Basically, the situation is screwed up and there isn’t anything we can to to change that.

One supposes that we can hope that the French take the lead in this and drop some bombs and shoot some missiles that we strongly approve of…

Carry on.
(Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader)

So what’s been happening?

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

Well… This has been a rather fun summer.

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

Anyhoo…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now skipping on to Rhode Island…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Breakers
He also visited The Breakers…

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

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

Carry on.

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