Anima Veneziana

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Water

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader fondly remembers a class he took in college. It was back in 1989. The class was called “American National Security Issues, 1989-2000.” The class was taught by LTG Samuel V. Wilson (US Army, Ret). By the way, you really ought to click on that link and read General Wilson’s Wiki page. General Wilson was one of the most interesting and thoughtful persons your Maximum Leader has ever had the pleasure of knowing. He considered himself lucky to be able to spend 90 minutes with General Wilson twice a week for a semester. Not too long ago your Maximum Leader found some class notes from this class. As he read over them, he started to remember how much he remembered. He also noted to himself just how many of the subjects that General Wilson covered in a class 31 years ago (yes THIRTY-ONE years ago) are still relevant today. One of the subjects that stuck with your Maximum Leader was water.

In the days before global warming, water was already an issue. There isn’t enough of it in many places. And as populations grow and become more wealthy they like to use more water. If this is happening where there isn’t enough water to begin with, that can be a problem. In fact, your Maximum Leader has observed for many decades now the various gulf states and how they try to deal with the question of water. It is a fascinating subject.

Water can also be a terrifying subject to think about. Take for example the Nile river. Way back in 1989 we talked about the Nile river. How it is the primary potable water source for 4 nations, chief among them Egypt. We spoke about the politics of the Aswan Dam and why the dam was so important in the first place. Well… Guess what? There is nothing new under the sun. If Egypt can dam the Nile, surely other nations can too.

And that is just what Ethiopia has done. If you missed it (and your Maximum Leader did until last year when he read a news article mentioning the dam), Ethiopia has been building a dam on the Blue Nile since 2011. Guess what else? That dam is finished. And Ethiopia is doing what is done when a dam is built. You fill a reservoir and start using the dam. Here is a piece on that: River Nile dam: Reservoir filling up, Ethiopia confirms. Here is the opening of the linked article:

A reservoir behind Ethiopia’s disputed Grand Renaissance dam on the River Nile has started filling with water - a day after talks with Egypt and Sudan ended without agreement, officials say.

Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele confirmed the latest satellite images showing water levels rising.

Ethiopia sees the hydroelectric project as crucial for its economic growth.

But Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream, fear the large dam will greatly reduce their access to water.

Years of fraught negotiations have failed to reach a consensus on how and when to fill the reservoir, and how much water it should release.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has previously warned that filling and operating the dam without an agreement “that protects the downstream communities… would heighten tensions and could provoke crises and conflicts that further destabilise an already troubled region”.

A conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia, which are both US allies, would put millions of civilians at risk.

Going to war over water. Could that really happen? Do nations war over water?

As a matter of fact, they very well may. From The Independent (UK): Egypt is backed into a corner over the Nile dam – it may have no choice but to go to war. In this piece the commentator, Ahmed Aboudouh, writes:

Egyptian officials accuse the Ethiopian government of following a series of diplomatic one-upmanship ploys since signing the 2015-Declaration of Principles, which indicates that all parties should reach a deal first before filling the reservoir. But Ethiopian negotiators seem to have taken stock of the diplomatic prowess North Korea showed in its contracted negotiations with the US over denuclearisation. Since Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s 2018 joint statement in Singapore, the North Koreans have shown prudence in running the clock on their commitments. Now negotiations are frozen, and an agreement is far from complete. By following the same playbook, dragging its feet, Ethiopia seems to have led the Egyptians into a cul-de-sac.

The deadlock means Egypt is now running out of options. During a recent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss Ethiopia’s hydro-electric plant, Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry stirred the pot. He described the dam as “a threat of potentially existential proportions”, and in a chest-thumping moment threatened that “Egypt will uphold and protect the vital interests of its people. Survival is not a question of choice, but an imperative of nature.” Ethiopia’s UN ambassador Taye Atske-Selassie countered, saying that for his nation accessing water resources was an “existential necessity.”

Water is not the only vital interest at stake: Egypt’s president and former general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is fighting for his legitimacy, too. Since taking power in 2014, Sisi has advanced a populist/nationalist narrative based on cultivating too much pride in military strength and raising the people’s expectations over his ability to protect “Egypt’s national security and interests.” Sisi understands that by losing the diplomatic battle over filling up the dam, and succumbing to pressure from Ethiopia’s, he’d risk igniting popular unrest - and possibly a military coup.

Your Maximum Leader would find it amusing that another nation would take a play out of the North Korean playbook, if it weren’t so devastatingly true. Just keep talking and talking until you’ve achieved your goal is a perfectly legitimate (and effective) way of dealing with your neighbors. Then when your goal is achieved, you can stop talking.

As if 2020 hasn’t given us so much up to this point, we may have a Egypt/Ethiopia war to which to look forward to. It may be a short war. Send some fighters in, blow up the dam. Then, one hopes, they can stop shooting and go back to talking.

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.

Sunday Potpourri

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, despite the flu fears, ventured from the Villainschloss today. He traveled to Charlottesville, VA and visited Monticello. As you all are no doubt aware, Monticello is the ingenious home of Thomas Jefferson. If he had not called in some favors and gotten a special tour of the house (along with a trip to the upper floors and the Dome Room) he might have opted to stay at home and not sojourn amongst his fellow citizens and expose himself (and his family) to the flu. For what it is worth, he didn’t touch much of anything. He washed his hands as often as it was feasible. And once the visit to Monticello was done, he proceeded directly back to the Villainschloss.

Your Maximum Leader really likes Monticello. You wouldn’t have guessed it because he hasn’t visited there in 22 years. But he really does love Monticello. He doesn’t love it as much as he LOVES Mount Vernon. (NB: Since his last visit to Monticello he has probably visited Mount Vernon seven times.) But then again, your Maximum Leader is a great Washington partisan so that may play a role in his tastes. Regardless of preferences, Monticello is completely deserving of its World Heritage Site designation. In so many ways it shows the character and contradictions of Jefferson himself. While your Maximum Leader isn’t a fan of psycho-history (or psychological analysis of historical figures as it were) he does think you can pick up many elements of Jefferson in his home. The dining room for example is comfortable and lavish, but the dumb-waiter and rotating door for serving food allowed Jefferson to keep his slaves out of sight to his guests. (All but one at any rate.) One the other hand, the main entry hallway is a veritable natural history museum of early America and speaks to his inquisitive mind and superior intelligence. Jefferson is a complicated character. Sort of like the country he is instrumental in founding. If you are in the area and have never visited Monticello, it is worth a visit. Frankly, if you are just passing through Virginia (say on I-95 heading north or south) it is worth a diversion to see.

Interesting… In getting the links to both Monticello and Mount Vernon he sees that both places are now closed to the end of the month. There are too many closures to note. It would probably be easier to note what places are still open and what events are still going on? Like the XFL. The XFL played games today. In front of live people. Your Maximum Leader was a bit surprised to see it actually. He wonders if their ratings were good? They are the only live sport on (it seems). One would think they would get a lot of eyes on TV from a population that is anxiously looking for some distraction.

Speaking of distractions… Here is a mental exercise for you. Your Maximum Leader thought of this one in the car driving back from Charlottesville. Ready? Here you go: Assume the former/late Presidents of the United States were alive and in their retirement after leaving office, but living in 2020. What vehicle do you think they would drive?

That is it. That is the game. If all the men who have served as chief executive of our great republic were alive today, what would they regularly drive?

Your Maximum Leader will go first. George Washington would drive a 2018 Ford F-250 SuperCab with a Powerstroke Turbo Diesel. Washington, after his presidency went back to Mount Vernon and managed his farms. He regularly rode 15-20 miles a day checking in and being personally involved in keeping things running. He would need a big vehicle suited to farm work to get around in. Your Maximum Leader thinks that he would put lots of hours on his truck and would keep it for a long time, which is why this truck isn’t brand-new, but a few years old. Your Maximum Leader thinks he would get a new one when he needed, and that was a few years ago.

John Adams, in retirement, would drive an early 2000’s model Subaru Outback LL Bean edition. It would be very high mileage, but still well kept and maintained. Adams would need the all-wheel drive and heated seats up in Quincy. Plus your Maximum Leader imagines that Adams would be a big-time client of LL Bean. (When Adams died, he would leave the car to John Quincy Adams, who would be happy to keep driving it as it would lessen the load on his own Outback LL Bean edition.)

[UPDATED: Loyal reader, Buckethead of the Ministry of Minor Perfidy, comments that Adams would probably drive a Volvo. Your Maximum Leader endorses this idea. More in comments.]

Thomas Jefferson would drive a 2020 BMW 750i x-drive sedan. It is a big car (he had a large extended family living with him so he would need the space) but the car also sends off that vibe of “I pretend not to be a real jerk, but secretly am a huge jerk.” He would claim that he wanted a car that would befit his station, but still be “practical” for his needs. Of course, this car would be leased and he would get a new one as soon as he hit 25,000 miles.

Andrew Jackson was a toughie. Really tough in fact. On the one hand, he was, like Washington, very engaged in his farm. So it stands to reason that he would need a vehicle that he could drive around The Hermitage. But on the other hand, Jackson was a small angry man who needs a car befitting that part of his personality. If your Maximum Leader was to choose a “farm vehicle” for Jackson it would be a 2014 Chevy Suburban. He has the space and power he needs to move people and stuff around around on the farm. But unlike Washington, who your Maximum Leader can imagine putting stuff in his truck and moving it where it needed to be; he can’t imagine Jackson actually moving stuff around in his own vehicle. He *could* move stuff in the Suburban. But he is more likely just to tell others to get the job done and drive away and circle back later. If your Maximum Leader was choosing the “non-farm” vehicle for Jackson it would be a 1968 Chevy Camaro SS. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure why, but he can imagine Jackson in a blue ‘68 Camaro wearing a leather jacket, mirrored shades, and cruising the streets of Nashville looking to beat the crap out of someone.

Those are the only ones your Maximum Leader could think of in the time he had in the car to think of these things to himself. He wants to think about what vehicle Abraham Lincoln would drive in more detail (he thinks it is probably a Ford F-150). He also is ruminating over what James Madison would drive. (In fact, your Maximum Leader doesn’t think Madison would drive in his retirement. He imagines that Dolley Madison would have a 4-door Jeep Wrangler and would drive little Jimmy where he wanted to go.)

Anyway… If you, dear reader, have any you can suggest, your Maximum Leader would be glad to hear from you.

By the way… This is the type of content your Maximum Leader should be posting more frequently… The really random crap…

Carry on.

Don’t forget your Maximum Leader on the tweety-box: @maximumleader.

Happy Independence Day!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes you all a very happy Independence Day. He believes it is important to remember, especially on the Fourth of July, that we, Americans, are lucky to live in the greatest nation in the world. For all that divides us, we are still blessed with abundance in so many ways they are hard to enumerate. Let us ignore the New York Times Opinion page for a little while and focus on the positive.

Allow your Maximum Leader to pontificate on why July 4th is best of all holidays.

Here is the list:

1 - Secular
2 - Good weather
3 - Cookouts
4 - No gift giving
5 - Fireworks
6 - Women in swimsuits
(And Liberty, of course.)

He will expand on these point for your edification.

Some may argue that Independence Day celebrates the “secular religion” of American Liberty. Some of those people may be correct. But in this context your Maximum Leader wants to make sure we all know that there is not true religious association with American independence. It isn’t Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist (to name a few). While we can all express our freedom to exercise our religion freely, the 4th of July is not associated with any particular religion or religious festival. It should be able to unite us all as Americans without regard to our religious (or atheist) preferences.

Good weather is always a plus when one has a day off and is going to celebrate something. As much as your Maximum Leader does love Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, they are cold. They are often wet (or snowy). They also aren’t commonly associated with doing outdoor things. Everyone is cooped up together in a house somewhere and getting all in each others business. On the 4th of July you can go outside. You can get away from others. You can sit under a tree in the yard and watch your other relatives carry on without having to be too near. You can plan a walk. Or go camping. Or go to the beach. Or any number of things that don’t require you to sit around in the house. This is a good thing.

With good weather comes cookouts. Cookouts are great. It doesn’t matter if they are on your back porch, front porch, in a parking lot, on the beach, in the woods (NB: Only you can stop forest fires), or anywhere. Cookout food is fun food as well. Hot dogs. Hamburgers. Ribs (which is what your Maximum Leader will be having this Independence Day). Chicken. Fire, smoke, and fresh air are a winning combination when it comes to eating. Cookouts are fun as well. Again your Maximum Leader will direct you to being outside, having space, doing things.

Does “no gift giving” really need much explanation? There is no expectation that you are going to have to think about, purchase, wrap, and deliver a gift for all your closest family and friends on Independence Day. If someone invites you to celebrate with them good manners, not the day itself, dictate that you bring a little something. But it could be some beer, or a bottle of wine, or hot dog rolls, or a nice bottle of Makers Mark (which is what your Maximum Leader would prefer if you come to the Villainschloss for any reason whatsoever). Your Maximum Leader is all for stimulating the economy with consumer sales, but he is generally offended when he’s told he must purchase gifts for one holiday or another…

Fireworks are the best! THE BEST! About the only thing negative your Maximum Leader can say about fireworks is that they often upset the harmony of our canine companions. Otherwise there is nothing more fun that sitting back and watching colored explosives detonated to music for your viewing pleasure. (Okay, there are some more fun things. But your Maximum Leader has already been graphic in one recent post, he’s not going to push his luck on this.) Fireworks make the day better. They are fun for all.

Women in swimsuits. As a heterosexual male that appreciates females, this should be self evident. But if you need evidence, here is some: Click here for images of American Flag Bikinis. Or looky at these:
flaggirl1.jpgflaggirl2.jpg
‘Murrica!

And of course there is the enduring fact of Liberty. We often take our Liberty for granted. In recent times many on the left and on the right would like to circumscribe our liberty to advance their own political view of the world. We should celebrate our liberty and defend it. It is the abstraction that makes the United States of American unique in the world and worthy of preservation.

And now, the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson, as ratified by the Continental Congress:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for
one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected
them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the earth,
the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and
of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions
of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which
impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,
deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends,
it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute
new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing
its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect
their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments
long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;
and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed
to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing
the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and
usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce
them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw
off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now
the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated
injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment
of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts
be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary
for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate
and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation
till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended,
he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of
large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish
the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right
inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual,
uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their
Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them
into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing
with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions,
to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers,
incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large
for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed
to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States;
for that purpose obstructing the Laws of Naturalization of Foreigners;
refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither,
and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent
to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure
of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of
Officers to harass our People, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies
without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of
and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction
foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws;
giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders
which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring
Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government,
and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once
an example and fit instrument for introducing the same
absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws,
and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves
invested with Power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection
and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns,
and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries
to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun
with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the
most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas
to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of
their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has
endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers,
the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare,
is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress
in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered
only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked
by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler
of a free People.

Nor have We been wanting in attention to our Brittish brethren.
We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their
legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us.
We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and
settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice
and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our
common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably
interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been
deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore,
acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them,
as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America,
in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of
the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name,
and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies,
solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are,
and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;
that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown,
and that all political connection between them and the State
of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved;
and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to
levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce,
and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may
of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm
reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge
to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Happy Independence Day fellow Americans!

Carry on.

Founders - Top 5

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has, from time to time, shared with you his lists of the “greatest” Presidents of the United States. Well how about a short list of his favorite Founders of our great Republic? Here is a top 5 list of the greatest Founders of the United States of America.

1 - George Washington. Please just accept that in your Maximum Leader’s eyes there is no greater American than George Washington. (He is followed closely by Abraham Lincoln.) First in war. First in peace. First in the hearts of his countrymen. If it were not for Washington leadership the Continental Army would have dissolved into nothing and the British would have retaken their North American Colonies and history would have been a lot different.

2 - John Adams. This was a tough one for me. Not that Adams isn’t deserving of this place. He most certainly is. But I also like #3 a lot. Without Adams’ tireless political work, the actual business of creating a coalition of colonies and factions within those colonies and forming them into a nation would certainly not have occurred. He is an overlooked founder because of his not-so-successful Presidency and political feuds with Thomas Jefferson. Americans owe more to Adams than we collectively remember. That is a shame. (And in the current political climate one would think Adams’ star would be more ascendant as he never owned slaves. Since that appears to be the litmus test for everything.)

3- Benjamin Franklin. Of all of the Founders, you Maximum Leader thinks he would most like to be real buddies with Benjamin Franklin. Yes, Washington is the best, but your Maximum Leader thinks that there would always be distance between Washington and everyone else. Washington was a reserved guy to all but his closest friends. It seems to your Maximum Leader that Franklin could become fast friends with anyone he liked and would a blast to hang out with. Talk about politics, science, philosophy, nature, history, travel, and women. His familiarity with Britain (from years as the colonies agent there) and his world-view was a great asset to our fledgling nation. He also seemed to be able to take the edge off tense situations - a talent sorely lacking in his Nation today.

4 - Thomas Jefferson. One might think that, as a Virginian, your Maximum Leader would hold Jefferson in much more esteem than he does. Jefferson’s words are immortal and resonant to this day. He understood and could capture in words the idealism upon which our Nation was founded and which have served as our inspiration for over two hundred and forty years. But Jefferson was a morass of contradictions and impracticality. It is hard for your Maximum Leader to cozy up to Jefferson.

5 - Robert Morris. Who? Yes, Robert Morris. Without Morris’ tireless work in the Continental Congress (and later the work of his friend, but not relation, Gouverneur Morris), it is unlikely that the young United States would have been able to acquire money, arms, and ships with which to supply the Continental Army and continue the fight against the British. We all owe Robert Morris a great debt of gratitude.

There you go. A revolutionary top 5 list. Enjoy your Independence Day America!

Carry on.

“Presidents Day” +1

Greetings, loyal minions. Often, in the past, on the Federal holiday popularly known as “Presidents Day” your Maximum Leader has given his list of the greatest Presidents of the United States of America.

Well, as we all know, the holiday is actually George Washington’s Birthday (with a nod to Abraham Lincoln). We should celebrate it as such. We should remember Washington (and Lincoln) and be done with it. Don’t give lip service to the “office” and don’t go around ginning up how great this or that President was (or is). The presidency is a job in our Republic. The person in it (Washington and Lincoln notwithstanding) is just a normal citizen doing a job. We don’t need more cults of personality in the world.

And lets be honest… There were many duds and idiots that served as President of the United States… So for this “Presidents Day” (+1) let us throw out the names of some of those duds and idiots to have served as chief executive of our nation…

1) James Buchanan - arguably the worst in our history. Let us not forget that the ineptitude of his man led to the American Civil War.
2) Andrew Johnson. The first president to be impeached (though not removed from office). He was completely out of step with his times and an arrogant bastard to boot.
3) Ulysses Grant. Great general. Great writer. No-so-great President. Scandals ruined it for Grant. (NB: No, I’ve not read the new Chernow biography on Grant yet. I may not ever to be honest. I doubt it will change my view that Grant is a great American overall, but a miserable President.)
4) Millard Filmore. The man’s very name is a synonym for mediocre.
5) Richard Nixon. It pains me to type that, but it is true. We really need a special category for Richard Nixon all by himself. He can be neither great, nor terrible because he was both in equal measures. For every good or great thing you can attribute to Nixon, there is an equally awful or destructive thing you can name. On the balance, the negatives probably outweigh the positives. If Nixon’s presidency should have taught us anything (which it apparently has not) it is that executive power should be limited. Many of the problems that those on the right and left have with a president with whom they do not agree is how they use the power that they have been given by Congress. Give less power to the president and there will be less to be upset about…

Anyway… There you have it. The five worst presidents according to your Maximum Leader…

Carry on.

A Link for your Edification

Greetings, loyal minions. Back in the heady days of blogging, some 15 years ago now, it was common for bloggers to link to entries on other blogs. Sometimes these links with be with comment, sometimes without. Your Maximum Leader’s moribund blog hasn’t linked another blogger in some time. This is going to be rectified right now.

A little while back there circulated around the interwebs an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates on Vox.com. Your Maximum Leader listened to part of the podcast and read some of the piece. He can’t say that he fully digested either, because of the furor of the subject. Coates is a revolutionary waiting to happen. He is intellectually loaded and standing by. He awaits his moment to set the world straight through bloodshed. It makes your Maximum Leader shudder. There is danger in words and ideas on both ends of the political spectrum. One hopes that the dangers in both sides can be kept in check with clear thinking and civility.

Your Maximum Leader’s blogging friend FLG read the piece too. His reading of the piece caused him to remember some passages he’d read. They are worth your time. Take a moment and read FLG’s: Politics and the English Language. It is short and clear. Just as Orwell would have wanted it.

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.

A Small Remembrance

I was thinking tonight about the past.

The day in real life had gone longer than expected and I was on my own for dinner. I decided to pick up a slice of pizza at a local place and call it a night. While I stood over the kitchen sink and ate my pizza I remembered a dinner from decades ago. I might have been in middle school, or maybe early in high school. I was very close to my paternal grandmother. I spent lots of time with her as she lived near and had been widowed since I was 10. One evening, while I was with her, she suggested we go out and get a pizza for dinner. She said we should go to this small neighborhood place that had been open for about 50 years by that point. She said they had good pizza. I’d never been there, but was always up for pizza. We went to the restaurant, walked in, and were seated. Then we got the menu.

No pizza.

My grandmother asked our server, where was the pizza. She was told that they no longer served pizza. The next generation had recently taken over full operation of the restaurant and they were looking to make it more “upscale.” Pizza didn’t figure into their plans. My grandmother stated matter-of-factly that the only reason we came was to get pizza. All she wanted to eat was pizza and have a small glass of beer. Since there wasn’t any pizza she didn’t see much reason to stay.

My memory has grown hazy. I don’t recall leaving and getting dinner somewhere else, but I don’t recall what we might have actually had. I do recall my grandmother complaining for the rest of the night that all she really wanted was pizza and a small beer.

For what it is worth, we never went out for pizza (and beer) again. I don’t know if that craving was satisfied at some other time, or if she just decided to put pizza and beer out of her mind forever.

Carry on.

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.

St Andrew and Winston

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader thought he might have some time to write about topical issues. Like the Planned Parenthood shooting. Or the Paris Bombings. Or the situation in Syria (and its attendant refugee crisis). But no. He is a lazy turd who wasted prime writing time yesterday by watching football, and reading. (Loser.)

But, he decided to log in this morning to have an update in November 2015. Your Maximum Leader will point out to you all that today is both St. Andrew’s Day and the anniversary of the birth of Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (b. 1874).

St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and that northern land has been much in the news of late. The recent failure of the Independence Vote… The complete resurgence of the Scottish National Party in the British general election (in which the SNP pretty much destroyed Labour in Scotland). If you have been following news in/about Scotland you would also know that the British Parliament (in Westminster) is working on a “Scotland Bill.” This bill would devolve more power down to the Scottish Parliament (in Edinburgh). As your Maximum Leader reads about the bill (but not the bill itself - because he’s lazy) it seems as though the Tories are working as hard as they can to make Scotland as happy as they can be within the Union. But the more you read and think about what the SNP is doing you realize that independence is the only thing that will really satisfy them. It will come sooner or later, but your Maximum Leader fears that it will come. That disappoints him because Scotland is (in his opinion) better off in the Union. He doesn’t think that an independent Scotland will get into the EU immediately. He also isn’t sure what they will use for currency… But those are just minor problems to those who want out… One might hope that Scots might reflect more carefully on their future (who knows… perhaps a little prayer to St. Andrew even) and be skeptical of leaving the Union.

Then you get the other bit historical event… The 141st anniversary of the birth of Winston Churchill. The Wee Villain (aged 11 and growing less “wee” with each passing month) asked his father yesterday “Why do you like Winston Churchill so much?” Knowing the boy’s problem with focusing from time to time your Maximum Leader realized that he had to distill it down to a short “soundbite” to give an answer. The answer he gave was, “Churchill saved Western Civilization in the early years of World War 2.” There is, of course, so much more to admire about Churchill than just that. But that one is pretty big. You should visit the Churchill Centre to learn more about the great man.

Your Maximum Leader will ask you to, this day, remember Winston Churchill.
Remember Winston Churchill

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Twitter: @maximumleader

Happy Day! You don’t look a day over 560.

Greetings, loyal minons. Your Maximum Leader wanted to share the observation that today, October 2, 2015 is the 563rd anniversary of the birth of Richard Plantangenet, Duke of Gloucester and later King Richard III of England.

As you may know, Richard’s body was recently discovered and reinterred in Leicester Cathedral. If you haven’t, you could visit the web site of the Richard III Society to learn more about Richard.

Carry on.

Richard III - RIP

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.

He now rests in peace in Leicester Cathedral.

A Comment Deserving Its Own Post

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been reading over the comments to his recent blogging adventures and he’s decided that his (virtual) friend The Ancient’s comment deserves to be moved up. Here tis:

A few miles from where we live in the country, this environmental atrocity has recently appeared –

http://www.cootersplace.com/museum/cooters-sperryville/

My wife remarked that it would inevitably depress property values in the county. I demurred, but the more I thought about it, the more I came to think she’s right. And when I see as caravan of sixty pickup trucks bearing Battle Flags racing down 211, as I did last weekend, I wince.

I’m closely related to both Jefferson Davis and Tecumseh Sherman. A ggg-grandfather died leading the Confederate charge into the Peach Orchard on the second day at Gettysburg. Another was a senior Union officer at Fredericksburg. And I am sick to death of people who claim the Battle Flag is all about their ancestors and “The Honored Dead.” Because the sort of men who drive pick-up trucks with the Battle Flag are also the sort of men who don’t know their grandmothers’ maiden names.

Once upon a time one could reasonably make an argument about “heritage.” No more. The Battle Flag means anti-black racism. Everything else is a smokescreen. Flying the Battle Flag in 2015 doesn’t mean you support the Klan. It doesn’t mean you want to resegregate the public schools. It doesn’t mean a lot of things. But it does mean you’re morally tone-deaf.

Ahhh… Your Maximum Leader knows Cooter’s Place. He hasn’t been inside the one in Sperryville, but he knows where it is. He actually has visited (once) the one in Nashville. He was taken there by a business associate on a lark.

Your Maximum Leader cannot agree more with so many of The Ancient’s points in his comments. While your Maximum Leader can’t specifically cite any ancestors’ service in the Civil War (though he’s been told that they were Union vets from Ohio and Pennsylvania in the family), he’s sure he has some. And frankly he’d be willing to guess that there were some on both sides. That said, we are modern people living in another age from our ancestors. Our blood is not attainted by an ancestors service on to the Confederacy in a way that we should feel an obligation to make history what it isn’t.

Part of your Maximum Leader’s point in the two Civil War related posts he’s put up is to observe that history is what it is. We can move on from it in a constructive way, or we can choose not to. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t want to forget or diminish our history, he also doesn’t want to sanitize it. But history has a context and knowledge of that context should inform our actions today.

Also, for what it is worth, The Ancient has pickups bearing Confederate flags tearing by his home. In your Maximum Leaders area (of Stafford and Fredericksburg, VA) the pickups bear both the US flag and the Confederate flag. He’ll have to get some photos of one next time he sees one. (Which will probably be tomorrow…)

Carry on.

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Hurtling penislike into the sweaty cleavage of history.

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