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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.

Gettysburg + 150 years

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader notes that it is about 10:20am (Eastern Daylight Time) on July 1. At this hour 150 years ago Confederate forces were forcing back Union Cavalry just to the west of the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. (Depending on how one reckons the hour (as there is Daylight Saving Time now), General Reynolds’ reinforcements were just coming on the scene.)

Your Maximum Leader is glad to see that national news outlets (and many local ones) are covering the anniversary. It is important that we remember watershed moments in our history. Your Maximum Leader was (at first) a little disappointed to not hear much in the news about the anniversaries of some of the other major battles that have already happened. Then he realized that the battles that have celebrated their 150th already are often Confederate victories. (Like Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville - both of which are right here in your Maximum Leader’s immediate vicinity.) So perhaps it is better that they went mostly un-noticed as the Union victories will start rolling through our calendar. (Gettysburg, Vicksburg, The Wilderness, Petersburg and Richmond)

Earlier in the year your Maximum Leader’s family went to visit Gettysburg and observe (before the craziness of July set in) the 150th in our own way. If your Maximum Leader is able tonight, he might post some more thoughts (and photos) on Gettysburg.

In the meanwhile, you should remember those that fought and died in the US Civil War. You should ponder why they fought and what that means to us today.

Carry on.

Memorial Day 2013

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has just returned to the Villainschloss from a short outing to Culpeper, VA. On Saturday, the Wee Villain asked if we were doing anything special for Memorial Day. Mrs Villain and your Maximum Leader asked if he had anything special in mind when he asked. The Wee Villain then surprised both his parents by saying that we all should go to Culpeper and visit the grave of your Maximum Leader’s paternal grandparents.

You see, your Maximum Leader’s paternal grandfather, like so many of his generation, was a World War II vet. He was with the SeaBees in the Pacific during WWII. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t know much of this grandfather’s time during the war (whereas he knows much more about his maternal grandfather’s time during the war). He knows that he was a diver and set explosives in coral reefs. He blew up coral reefs to make holes for pilings that would support airfields or docks on small atolls during the island hopping across the Pacific towards Japan.

Your Maximum Leader didn’t have much of an opportunity to talk to his paternal grandfather about the war. His grandfather died in 1980 when your Maximum Leader was 10. The thought of asking about the war hadn’t occurred to your Maximum Leader by the time he was 10.

Your Maximum Leader was told, by his paternal grandmother, why his grandfather was buried in Culpeper - a place with which he had no connection prior to his death. Apparently, he received a letter in the 1970s from the Veteran’s Administration (VA) indicating that Arlington Cemetery was being closed as it was running out of space. If my grandfather wanted to be buried in Arlington he needed to fill out some forms to reserve a place. Before filling out the forms, my grandparents went around and looked at some other federal cemeteries in the region to see if another one might be an appealing place to spend eternity. The National Cemetery in Culpeper was that appealing place. The cemetery is not terribly large, and is dominated by a large hill. The top of the hill, and the southern slope of the hill, are filled with Union dead from the Civil War.

(NB to readers: As is the habit in the South, Confederate dead were buried in town cemeteries or in special cemeteries for Confederates only. Union dead were often left where they were until, under flag of truce, Union soldiers came to retrieve and/or bury their dead. Your Maximum Leader recalls that the Union dead after the Battle of Fredericksburg (Dec 1862) remained on the field until February 1863 - when Robert E. Lee wrote to Joseph Hooker and indicated that Hooker should send men to bury the dead of Fredericksburg. Thus, you have a proliferation of “Federal Cemeteries” in and near towns where battles were fought during the Civil War. Many of the Civil War dead in Culpeper fought & died in cavalry campaigns around Culpeper in 1862 & 1863.)

The north slope of the hill on which the National Cemetery in Culpeper is situated, was mostly empty when my grandparents visited. Just up the hill from the empty area where my grandparents would eventually be buried is a large monument erected by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania honoring her Civil War dead. Both my grandparents were Pennsylvanians, so it seemed appropriate that this would be their final resting place. So my grandparents returned the paperwork indicating that they would be buried in Culpeper.

Your Maximum Leader and his family took the 45 minute trip from Fredericksburg to Culpeper this morning and went to pay their respects to his grandparents and all the other citizen-soldiers buried there. While he was there, there was a small ceremony going on with some local politicians and officials speaking on a platform near the entrance to the cemetery. Your Maximum Leader didn’t linger for the ceremony, but did hear some of the remarks and some of the patriotic songs played by the band.

All in all it was a pleasant way to spend part of Memorial Day 2013.

Here is a picture looking up the hill towards the grave of your Maximum Leader’s grandparents. The trees beyond the brick wall obscure the Pennsylvania monument and the main flag pole.

National Cemetery at Culpeper

Carry on.

Off into the sunset.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader just watched Benedict XVI fade off into the sunset over Latinum. (Is the provence surrounding Rome still called Latinum or is your Maximum Leader’s love of history playing tricks on his memory?)

Your Maximum Leader watched this spectacle mostly out of curiosity. A Pope resigning (or abdicating as your Maximum Leader thinks it should be) isn’t something that happens every day.

Does your Maximum Leader have any deep thoughts to share with you on this historic event? Sadly no. Benedict could be remembered, in some circles, for his impressive scholarship and writing. (Much of which was done before he was elevated to the Throne.) But if abdication due to failing health becomes the preferred method of leaving the papacy, he will be long remembered for how he proceeds from here on out.

In your Maximum Leader’s humble opinion, the title of “Pope Emeritus” is a little much. Wearing the white cassock also seems a little much. If it was your Maximum Leader’s call, former popes would be referred to as “Father ______” and the former pope in question could choose his papal name or his birth name. So the soon-to-be former pope would be Father Joseph or Father Benedict. Also, he should wear a simple black or brown cassock. Your Maximum Leader (intellectually) understands where they are coming from with the title and the dress; but if you are “retiring” and removing yourself from office and public life; then the most basic trappings of that life probably ought to go as well.

Anyhooo…

Now on to the Conclave and the future.

Carry on.

God Save the King! Richard found!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is sure that by now you have heard the news. No it isn’t that the Ball’mer Ravens won the Super Bowl. The news is greater than that. (Though the news has been overshadowed by the big football game.)

The remains of King Richard III of England have been positively identified. According to the Washington Post (and many other news outlets) the remains found five months ago under a parking lot in Leicester are “beyond a reasonable doubt” those of the last Plantagenet king of England.

Your Maximum Leader is positively giddy with the news. As long-time readers (if there are any of you left) know, your Maximum Leader is a big fan of Richard III. Your Maximum Leader supposes that the next big decision for the archeologists and others involved with the dig will be how to re-bury the King. Your Maximum Leader believes there are really only two choices available for re-burial. The first, and most likely, is that Richard should be lain to rest in Leicester Cathedral (a short distance from where he was found). He has, after all, been buried in Leicester for 500 years already and short of being put back under the parking lot, this is a reasonable choice. The other choice is that specified by Richard himself. As your Maximum Leader understands it, the King had plans in his will to be buried in York Minster.

Your Maximum Leader knows that Leicester wants to keep Richard’s remains and seems to be lobbying for that outcome. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure if the good people of York are anxious to have Richard buried there. But it would seem as though they would want him. What community wouldn’t want to have a king buried in their city? Your Maximum Leader is pretty sure that Westminster Cathedral shouldn’t be in the running. That said, many people will probably argue for Westminster…

The one sidebar on this whole discovery that your Maximum Leader would like to see it this: a 3-D model of Richard’s skull used to make an image of what he looked like in life. That would be the most fascinating bit of discovery yet to be revealed. We’ve seen what King Tut looks like (and countless other Pharaohs). I’d like to see Richard’s face.

More on this as it becomes available. In the meanwhile… God Save the King! Hail King Richard III.

Carry on.

RIP - Jacques Barzun

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader learned this morning (thanks to a tweet from the AP) that renown historian Jacques Barzun had died at the age of 104. Your Maximum Leader, not meaning to sound horrible, had thought that Dr. Barzun had already shrugged off his mortal coil a while ago. Your Maximum Leader remembers reading (part of a borrowed copy of) “From Dawn To Decadence” when it came out. At that time Dr. Barzun was in his early 90s. Your Maximum Leader, sadly, assumed that the masterwork had been published and with his life work complete death followed. (NB: Your Maximum Leader has still never finished that book… And he doesn’t think he owns it… Humm…)

So it is with some sadness and surprise that we can read his obituary as it appears today. The Washington Post obit is here “Jacques Barzun wide-ranging cultural historian dead at 104.”

Your Maximum Leader is glad to see that Dr. Barzun’s aphorism about baseball is in the obituary. Your Maximum Leader remembers seeing the aphorism on a plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame (just like the article says). The saying is: “Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”

Rest in peace professor.

Carry on.

St Crispin’s Light Brigade

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that this is St Crispin’s Day. That means that today is the anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt. A great English victory over the French in the 100 Years War. A victory that, thanks to the Bard, probably clouds our collective memory and makes us Anglophiles assume that the English won the 100 Years War, which they did not.

The best remembrance of the Battle of Agincourt actually comes from the ole Twitter machine where user Michael Gebert (@skyfullofbacon) tweeted: “Christ, it’s St. Crispin’s Day and that means the old man will be showing his arm scars and going on about Harry the King & Exeter all night.” That made your Maximum Leader laugh aloud.

Of course, if it is St. Crispin’s Day, that means it is also the anniversary of the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava.

And overlooked in all this is St. Crispin himself.

If you are so inclined, and your Maximum Leader is, lift a glass and remember Harry the King, Bedford, Exeter, Warwick, Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester and their great victory today. After a few celebratory glasses, you can wallow in the plight of the Light Brigade. And after a night of hard drinking you can be thankful that you didn’t end up like St. Crispin.

Carry on.

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