Move Forward

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader isn’t an expert. He doesn’t play one on TV. He is just a lowly blogger with a moribund web site. All that said… It is time for the transition to begin.

President Trump has lost the 2020 election. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t see a way for him to make up enough ground in enough places to change the outcome. He should do the right thing and instruct the GSA to start opening the government to President-Elect Biden’s transition team.

In case some of my conservative, or Republican, friends are scandalized by this position please consider these things your Maximum Leader has been considering. Was there widespread voter fraud across the country? No. There simply isn’t solid evidence of that. Claims are based on hearsay and mostly wild speculation on social media platforms. Was there voter fraud generally speaking? Oh yes. Your Maximum Leader is sure that there are fraudulently and illegally counted ballots all around the county. But even if these were all discovered, and recounted accurately and legally, it wouldn’t affect anything except on the margins. He doesn’t think any outcomes would be different than what we have today.

Does you Maximum Leader expect that President Trump will start the transition process on his side? No. He really doesn’t. Sadly, that is part of the petulant child portion of Trump’s personality that damages the country. One would hope that someone in the Administration would have the balls to get the ball rolling, and damn the consequences. That doesn’t seem likely either. Those who might have been inclined to do that have departed already.

So what about holding off until lawsuits and such are concluded? This is a valid point. Your Maximum Leader believes that President Trump is within his legal rights to sue and to contest what he thinks he should contest. Not only is he within his rights to do so, but he should do so considering how close (broadly speaking) the election is. The courts, for their part, should swiftly move to adjudicate these cases and should allow states to certify their results and remove any legal hurdle to the transition to the new administration.

Will all this happen quickly? Who knows? Your Maximum Leader is generally tired of trying to guess.

You can all be assured of one thing… Transition or not, on January 20, 2021, former Vice-President Joe Biden will become President of the United States.

Carry on.

Introspection

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is going to withhold much of what is is thinking about the election right now. But he will put this out there. Many Democratic pundits, Democratic voters, and regular people are looking at the results, such as they are now, and saying to themselves, “having seen what has gone on for 4 years, how can people vote for more of this?” The unasked question that they would be well-served to also ask “is what are we offering going to push people away from voting for us?” Now, your Maximum Leader has a few close friends who are quick to point out that Biden is not a real leftist like many other faces of the Democratic Party. They would say that Biden isn’t going to push some of those “far left” policies. To this your Maximum Leader rejoins that Biden may not be that liberal, but the party seems to be that liberal.

Another question for Democrats to ask themselves is this: “How is calling people who disagree with us stupid racists working out for us?”

Carry on.

UPDATE: For what it is worth (and in this case that is most likely absolutely nothing), today your Maximum Leader has spoken to (a statistically insignificant sample size of) 3 women who did not vote for Trump in 2016, but said they did vote for him this year. Your Maximum Leader asked them why they voted for him. All three of them said pretty much variations on the same theme. That theme is: 1) the Democrats tacitly approved of (or actively supported) the protests (riots/violence) in the streets of the US over the summer and they feared for more, 2) none of them want single-payer health care and believe the Democrats will enact such policies, and 3) all the talk of adding DC and Puerto Rico as states (to increase the number of Democrats in the Senate) and packing the Supreme Court disturbed them greatly. One of them said about the last point that “they are sore losers who want to change the rules so they can win.”

Again, that is not a statistically significant sample, but it was interesting. In fact the only argument that could have convinced your Maximum Leader to vote for Trump was the “he will be a bulwark against Democratic excess” argument.

Avoiding Election News

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is taking a quick look right now at some non-election related news stories. (16:47 US Eastern Standard Time.) When he is done, it will be off the interwebs and social media and anything news related until at least tomorrow morning. At that point he will turn on the news to get the weather forecast. Sadly, he will likely get election news as well.

If all goes according to plan, he will have a few cocktails tonight whilst watching movies. Then he will drift off into dreamless slumber…

If all goes according to plan…

Carry on.

Voting

Greetings, loyal minions.

Your Maximum Leader voted two days ago.

He will neither encourage nor discourage you from doing so yourself.

Frankly, he doesn’t care if you vote.

And when he thinks more broadly about voting, he starts thinking about shrinking the franchise.

Of course, when your Maximum Leader’s World Order comes, everyone will vote. Everyone will be encouraged to vote. But your votes will be meaningless.

Happy Halloween.

Carry on.

Speaking the Unspeakable.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been watching the news from Europe and Asia a little more carefully over the past few weeks than he has before. You see, he figured that since the Covid outbreaks in Europe and Asia for the most part preceded those of the US and Canada they would likely lead any “second wave” that might be happening. Additionally, since Europe and Asia seem to have better prevention and mitigation protocols than the US, it would stand to reason that seeing how bad a second wave of infections might be could illustrate how it could go in the US.

Well… The news isn’t good. This article from The Daily Beast might be one of the first of many that we will see in American outlets: Italy Did Everything Right to Stop a Second Wave of the Coronavirus. So What Went Wrong? The picture is not promising. Here are some salient points:

If you turn on the news in Italy right now, you might be forgiven for thinking you are getting reruns from March. Pictures of COVID-only units, field hospitals being erected, exhausted medics and coffins are again dominating headlines as Italy comes to grips with a deadly second wave of COVID-19. On Wednesday, the death toll topped 125 in a 24-hour period for the first time since May when this country was still under a Draconian lockdown and seen as a harbinger of what was to come.

[…]

On Wednesday, Italy logged 15,199 new infections–nearly three times as many as the worst day of the pandemic last March and a per capita rate that would be the equivalent of 90,000 new cases in a single day in the U.S., which has not yet been reached.

And it is only getting worse. “Certain metropolitan areas like Milan, Naples and Rome are already out of control in terms of containing the pandemic,” Walter Ricciardi, an infectious disease specialist advising the Italian government who holds the same position in Italy as Fauci does in the U.S. said at a conference Wednesday. “Their numbers are too high to be contained by the traditional method of tracing and testing. And as previous epidemics teach us, when you can’t contain you have to mitigate, namely you have to block movement.”

[…]

But authorities are very concerned still that despite all the best efforts to contain the spread, it simply cannot be stopped. The government’s experts insist that the rate of contagion among school children is not the driving factor, but young people who feel confident they won’t get very sick and insist on gathering socially may be. Now major cities like Milan, Rome and Naples have evening curfews to try to stop young people from gathering socially, which seems to be contributing to the spread. Riccardi said that most of the contagion that happens within multigenerational homes comes from young people bringing it in.

But Italy is by no means alone in its battle against the European second wave of the pandemic. France, Spain and the Czech Republic have all broken records in new cases and introduced measures to mitigate the spread. The United Kingdom has also recorded record numbers of new infections in a single day, and Ireland has completely locked down.

Germany—which largely avoided problems during the first European wave— has reported shocking numbers of new infections, which topped 10,000 in a single day on Wednesday. Authorities there have also blamed young people going out or groups meeting privately for the spread. Dr. Lothar Wieler, told the DW network that people going to work is not the problem. “We don’t see so many outbreaks at workplaces or in public transportation, but it’s mostly coming together in privacy, in parties and also in services and weddings,” he said. “We shouldn’t have too many of these events.”

[…]

But for many, the sacrifices that helped during the first round seem lost now, as though they had been made in vain.

Your Maximum Leader is frequently accused of being a pessimist by Mrs. Villain. He counters that he tries to be a realist. (NB: in any context this is an argument for the ages and will never be resolved.) But your Maximum Leader has privately, and is now publicly, wondered if some mitigation is just the best we can do against this virus until there is a vaccine and approved treatment regimen. The data seems to be adding up in the direction of we can try to limit the number of Covid related deaths, but we aren’t going to stop it. Your Maximum Leader remembers back at the beginning of the Covid outbreak in the US it was quarantine to slow the spread and not overwhelm the health care system. If one carefully read the charts and listened to the experts, the number of dead were not going to change just the period over which people died would be spread out. Your Maximum Leader thinks that this is what we are in for as fall turns to winter. All the precautions and steps we may (or may not) take as a nation (or collection of states - more accurately in this situation) are likely only to change the death toll in the margins. The numbers are going to happen and there isn’t much that can be done to stop them from happening.

Carry on.

Primetime Arguments

Greetings, loyal minions.

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

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

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

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

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

Sadness.

Carry on.

More on Nile Waters

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that now the situation along the Nile river is growing more tense. In a piece on Legal Insurrection, Leslie Eastman writes an interesting piece on the recent escalation of tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia over the latter’s move to start filling the reservoir behind the GERD dam. The Ethiopian Foreign Minister has apparently tweeted that the Nile belongs to Ethiopia. Egypt has not taken this statement well. There is an interesting bit in this piece about the financing of the dam by China. This dam, like so many other projects across Africa, has been financed by China to improve China’s position on the continent. It is worth your time to take a gander at this piece.

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.

A Few Thoughts, June 23, 2020.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will share a few disjointed thoughts with you all…

- As your Maximum Leader tweeted recently, no one will ever be woke enough. The mob will turn on you. The revolution will eat its own. No one will ever be pure enough to pass the zeal of the examiners.

- Your Maximum Leader voted (in person) today in the Democratic Primary. Seriously, he did. He voted for the least odious of the two candidates running for a chance to take on incumbent Congressman Rob Whitman. Today notwithstanding, your Maximum Leader will vote to re-elect Whitman in November. Why did he not vote in the Republican primary? Well. Honestly, he had no idea what the positions were of the three men looking for a chance to unseat incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D). Once there is a winner in that race, he’ll learn about the candidate.

- Seriously… Your Maximum Leader honestly nearly forgot there was a primary today. He didn’t do much to educate himself on the candidates. He voted in the Democratic primary mainly because he actually knew who the two candidates were and was reasonably informed on their various positions…

- Your Maximum Leader snagged some of the Makers Mark Private Select bourbon for Virginia. There are two limited release, special bourbons just for sale in Virginia. Sadly, he was only able to get his hands on one of the two types released in the Commonwealth. He has the manager of his local ABC store on the lookout for the other…

- Your Maximum Leader has mostly moved back into his study. Readers may recall that a year ago your Maximum Leader took in an exchange student. At that time your Maximum Leader’s study was converted into a bedroom. It has now been (mostly) converted back. There are some objets d’art that need to be re-hung in the room. But the bookshelves are back and mostly full. But they are completely disorganized. It will take some time to put everything back in the proper place.

- Your Maximum Leader and Villainette #2 have been watching (rewatching for him, 1st time for her) Ken Burn’s “The Civil War.” Your Maximum Leader forgets how good it is. He is pleased that Villainette #2 has now grown to dislike George B. McClellan. (As one does.)

- Finally, your Maximum Leader wonders when the current civil unrest across our Republic will start to abate. There is much to say about it. Its causes. How it has progressed. What is says about us. What is might portend for the future. But that is all for another time.

Carry on.

Qui tacet consentit.

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

WRONG!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader asks that you read the title of this post in your best John McLaughlin voice. So, when it comes to things political you Maximum Leader has been very wrong about some things. He was wrong about Trump winning the 2016 Presidential Election. He is also very wrong about Joe Biden. He doesn’t recall if he blogged it, tweeted it, or wrote as a comment on Facebook that there was no way in hell that Joe Biden was going to win the nomination of the Democratic party for the presidency in 2020. Please know that your Maximum Leader is sitting down, wallowing in his wrongness. It feels like… Quarantine…

So, he was wrong about Joe Biden. Somehow, saner voices in the Democratic party prevailed and they didn’t coalesce behind Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, or one of the many other more “progressive” candidates. Frankly, your Maximum Leader didn’t see it happening. He thought that the Democrats were going to do what Republicans did in 2016. Your Maximum Leader likens 2016 to Republicans saying “Ah fuck it. Nominate Trump. Take our lumps. And see what happens in 2020.” Of course, there were many voices in the Republican party who’s view on nominating Trump was more like: McCain and Romney were too moderate; just nominate the furthest “right” person we can find and see what happens. Of course, now many of those voices are happy to crow that if the party had nominated someone more like Trump in 2008, Obama would have never become president.

Your Maximum Leader disagrees with the sentiment he just related to you, but he’s also spent this post saying he’s been wrong. (So take anything written here with a shaker of salt.) He figured that there would be a substantial faction of the Democratic party that would pretty much look at Trump in 2016 and say, “two can play at that game” and go ahead and nominate Bernie Sanders or someone just as/more liberal/progressive/socialist. So the fact that they didn’t is a little shocking to your Maximum Leader. Who’da thunk that the Democrats were more sane than Republicans? That is a turn around.

So it looks like it will be Trump/Pence and Biden/Someone on the ballot in November. If your Maximum Leader had to guess prior to the pandemic and subsequent lock-downs/quarantines he would have said that Trump would win reelection. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure now. He would have said that a Trump reelection would be a “damned close-run thing” in favorable circumstances. Now, given the state of the country and how it may be in November, your Maximum Leader simply doesn’t know. What your Maximum Leader does know is that he doesn’t have an idea who he will vote for…

Yup… You read that right, your Maximum Leader isn’t sure for whom he will vote in November. To clarify, he isn’t going to vote for Trump. He didn’t in 2016, and isn’t going to in 2020. That man has a corrosive effect on politics and our nation. Successes he may have had (which are few in your Maximum Leader’s view) have not earned your Maximum Leader’s vote. That leaves the Biden/Someone ticket. Your Maximum Leader didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 either. (He voted for Gary Johnson - Libertarian.) Will he vote for Joe Biden in November? To be honest, your Maximum Leader has always viewed Joe Biden as a mediocre political hack who, like most US Senators, fancied that he could be a better President of the United States than whoever the occupant of the office happened to be. Your Maximum Leader is pretty sure that there were more than one sleepless night at the Vice President’s mansion when ole Joe gazed over the manicured lawns and said to himself, “I would be better at _________ than Barack Obama.” So Joe thinks he’s up to the job (and has since 1988 at least). Your Maximum Leader doesn’t think Joe is up for the job. He seems old, tired, and just out of it. Again, if your Maximum Leader is being honest, he doesn’t see Joe Biden physically holding up for 4 years as President. Your Maximum Leader isn’t saying that at some point in the possible 1st term of a Biden presidency we would be talking about the 25th Amendment, but he’s been thinking about it. That is why Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential choice is an interesting one.

Former Vice President Biden has, stupidly in your Maximum Leader’s opinion, declared that his VP choice will be a woman. Why declare that it is going to be a woman? It is pandering, nothing but pandering. But strategically, why box yourself into that move so early? It speaks to a lack of vision in your Maximum Leader’s opinion. It says “I’m pandering for your vote now, and will take options off the table way before I have to in an effort to make you people who don’t like me, like me.” Your Maximum Leader has no problem with a woman as VP on the ticket, or a woman as VP, or a woman POTUS. (He thought Selina Meyer was great at both roles!) It all comes down to which woman. If Biden were to pick Hillary Clinton (which no one thinks will happen - but there is a faction that seems to still want it), your Maximum Leader would see about voting Libertarian again. Frankly, Stacey Abrams of Georgia is another choice that seems like pandering, but worse than just pandering it is a choice that is pandering AND irresponsible. When a 78 year old man picks a woman who has no experience beyond being a State Senator for the job that is literally one heartbeat away from the Presidency for no other reason than she checks some boxes that some people want to see checked it is irresponsible. It really undercuts Biden’s major draw. What is Biden’s major draw by the way? He has 2 in fact. The first is he’s not Donald Trump. That will be enough for many people. The second is that he can say “I’m competent and know what the hell I’m doing.” For chrissakes, he’s been a US Senator for a lifetime and was for eight years Vice President of the United States. If Biden were to choose Abrams it says that it is more important to signal that he is comfortable with a black woman who’s claim to fame is that she lost an election for governor, than it is to signal that he wants a serious person/partner who could be President. Again, your Maximum Leader isn’t wishing for a 25th Amendment situation, but he can envision one.

So who then? Who does your Maximum Leader think Biden could choose and signal that he is serious about thinking about someone who could be President in the case of a tragedy, and who would be set up for a possible Presidential run in 2024 or beyond? Since Biden said he has to choose a woman, then you have to seriously look at Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar. Your Maximum Leader would actually think that any of those three would be fine choices. Not that he agrees with any of them particularly on politics. But the choice is not reckless. Warren would possibly help him among liberals/progressives. Harris might (might - really only might) help him among minorities. Klobuchar may help him in the Midwest. Of those your Maximum Leader thinks that Klobuchar probably meshes the best with Biden politically and philosophically. Of course, Klobuchar doesn’t seem to be popular with minorities. Of those three, your Maximum Leader probably agrees with Klobuchar most on policy. That isn’t to say we are ideological soul-mates, we aren’t. But there is likely more common ground between Klobuchar and your Maximum Leader than Warren/Harris and your Maximum Leader. That being said, either Warren or Harris would be satisfactory choices. Between those two, your Maximum Leader would go with Harris. But what the hell does your Maximum Leader know? Nothing. Nothing as evinced by all of his blogging thus far.

There are other women being spoken about: Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice and many others. They all have something they can bring to the ticket. Your Maximum Leader thinks Biden is going to probably choose Harris or Klobuchar. Your Maximum Leader thinks that Biden knows them both, they are both Senators and he feels comfortable knowing that about them. Additionally, they are both qualified for the job having had experience in Washington.

Where does that leave your Maximum Leader in terms of voting in November? Hell if he knows.

Carry on.

Who are your people?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

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

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

Advocacy in Favour of Our Client, Belial.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is all.

Carry on.

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

We Have An Answer to My Rhetorical Question

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader asked in his last post “What is the protocol for killing people storming your Embassy?” Apparently the protocol is to use an airstrike to kill the commander of the of Iran’s Qud Guards, Qassem Soleimani.

So, a few thoughts on this situation right now. Broadly speaking, your Maximum Leader only favors killing important leaders when you know how far you are prepared to go in dealing with the consequences of killing that leader. If Soleimani was just a “terrorist leader” and not officially affiliated with a proper nation-state, his killing would have some consequences similar to those that we have dealt with in killing other terrorist group leaders. Killing a senior general in the Iranian Army, even one that actively plots, plans, funds, and directs anti-American actions is a little different. My point here is not that we should not have killed Soleimani, it is that I hope we are ready and have a plan to deal with possible escalation and retaliation resulting from our actions.

It is possible that Iran will not retaliate at all. Your Maximum Leader thinks that is improbable, but possible. What if Iran steps up attacks on US forces in the Middle East (which is highly probable)? We can likely deal with that. What if Iran attacks Israel (also probable)? We, and Israel, can likely deal with that. How do you deal with Iranian agents killing a US Cabinet member in the United States? How do you deal with Iranian agents blowing up an oil refinery in the US, or in Saudi Arabia?

Your Maximum Leader isn’t saying that there isn’t a plan, or that people haven’t considered how this could escalate, he just hopes that they are prepared for the worse and know how far they are prepared to go.

Carry on.

A New Year’s Message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellipses…

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

To turn to topical news…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

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