A Link for your Edification

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

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

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

Carry on.

TWP - 4, Rights and Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No matter what the costs may be.

Carry on.

TWP - 3, Political Brain Dump.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has, if you noticed, decided in the header line of these posts to abbreviate “The Writing Project” as “TWP.” No big deal really. At some point it will make sense to drop the “TWP” all together. But it will stay for now as a reminder that this is still a project. If the “project” takes and writing returns to being a habit, then the “TWP” will probably be dropped…

So what to write about…

This episode will be on politics.

On Friday night I had a long conversation with Villainette #2. My younger daughter is a freshman at Virginia Tech. She is also 18 and eligible to vote in November. As you may know, we here in Virginia have elections every year. We love democracy so much we have to keep practicing it every year. In odd numbered years we have state and local elections. On November 7, 2017, Virginians will elect a new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and House of Delegates. We will also elect county Supervisors and School Board members.

Villainette #2 has a very logical and reasoned mind. She approaches things very analytically. She received her absentee ballot earlier in the week, and between the date she got the absentee ballot and last Friday she watched all the gubernatorial debates on YouTube and found all the websites of all of the candidates on her ballot. Then she called me for questions.

Without violating her confidence in any way, we had a very wide-ranging talk that took about two and a half hours. We concluded that either of the men running for Governor (Ralph Northam - D, or Ed Gillespie - R) would probably be pretty good. I find them both to be good and honorable men who would serve the Commonwealth well. I plan on voting Gillespie myself. I do think, from the polling I’ve seen and the people I’ve spoken to, that Northam has an edge. I don’t know if Virginia will lead the way in a much-desired-by-Democrats wave of anti-Trump sentiment. We very well could be the leading edge of such a wave. I am not sure we will be, but the race will get heated in these last four weeks.

We also concluded that the people running for Lt. Governor are spending a lot of time and energy talking about issues that they will not have ability to do anything about once elected. We also had a very tactile conversation about the Attorney General’s job and the two men running for the job.

I don’t feel it is my place to say much about our conversations, but let it suffice to say that I am very proud of my daughter and her diligence in finding out what the issues are and where candidates stand on various issues.

I’ll probably write a little more about state political races in the next few weeks…

Here is a thought for you to mull over…

What if the only skill a politician has is getting elected?

Think about that for a minute. Office holders are skilled at getting elected, but might be (perhap probably might be) inept or unlearned at other things. Say you have a Congressman that is good at getting elected, but not all that savvy in understanding the nuances of public policy. I will submit to you that at least a slight majority of office holders in this nation are good at getting elected, and mostly inept at the jobs to which they are elected. There are notable exceptions at all levels, but they tend to prove the rule of ineptitude…

Or perhaps I am being particularly cynical today.

One that thing, concerning Puerto Rico. I am, like I think the majority of Americans are, concerned about the speed at which recovery/rebuilding/relief activities are taking place in Puerto Rico. The citizens of Puerto Rico are Americans. They are our brethren. I want them to get the same treatment that any other place in the United States would get. That being said, I am well aware of logistical difficulties of getting supplies to an island that is pretty far from the mainland. All this being said, let me get to the heart of the matter. I am disappointed that I can’t get a straight answer about what is actually going on in Puerto Rico. Things are not good. That is clear. But the Mayor of San Juan is proclaiming that “We are dying.” The official death count has gone from 13 to 16 over the past few days. If they dying the Mayor is describing is metaphorical and not literal, she should ratchet down the hyperbole. I see reports of towns without supplies. I see images of acres of containers with supplies sitting at the docks. Depending on the source, either the roads are not not passable and there is no way to get supplies to where they are needed, OR the truckers are on strike and will not drive the supplies to where they are needed. Both of these situations are plausible. I have no idea the scope of either. This is a major problem with news coverage. It seems very slanted and trying to fit a narrative. I realize that this is nothing new, but it is also not helping.

This is just griping of course. I’m not empowered to take decisions that will change the situation quickly. I am just a guy typing away on a computer and pushing his ranting out into the ether.

I am, though, a voter and will be able to exercise what power I do have at some point. I also have a long memory.

Carry on.

What to say

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t know what to say. After a few weeks of a Trump Presidency he isn’t sure what to think, say, or do. Here are some thoughts in random listicle form:

1) Your Maximum Leader feels that Trump’s cabinet is a mixed bag. Mattis & Chao are fine. Tillerson and Mnuchin are unknowns (frankly most are) and do not elicit much reaction now. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t approve of Sessions, Carson, or Perry. (NB: Though in all honesty, your Maximum Leader wouldn’t piss on Rick Perry if he was on fire.) Towards the rest of the picks he is largely ambivalent. We’ll see what happens with any, or all, of them. Though when you work for someone who has the attention span and impulsivity of a prepubescent ADHD boy hopped up on caffeine it is hard to do a good job…

2) Your Maximum Leader likes the pick of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. He is very pleased indeed. To be open, your Maximum Leader thought that Merrick Garland should have at least had a Senate Hearing. If you pressed your Maximum Leader, he’d even go so far as to say that the Senate should have confirmed Garland. Not because your Maximum Leader would have liked it. (He genuinely prefers Gorsuch.) But rather, the process is the process and delaying for nearly a year is too long. Delaying for six months seems too long, but probably isn’t. There is a fine line to it and your Maximum Leader doesn’t want to draw a hard line. Nearly a year until the election seems too long… And while speaking about the Gorsuch nod… Your Maximum Leader wonders if the Senate will be without a filibuster by the end of the year… He honestly thinks it could happen…

3) Your Maximum Leader has mixed, but mostly negative, feelings about the immigration ban. While he can support a temporary ban on immigration & refugees from a list of countries, the way Trump did this was awful. It speaks to amateurism, willfulness, impetuousness, and impulsiveness. None of which are good things. Just a few more days of consulting with the agencies tasked with implementing the ban would have done wonders on that issue.

4) Liberals/Progressives/Democrats… Dear God! All this rioting and protesting is getting tiresome. The rioting especially. It is disheartening for the future to think that there are many in our country who believe (and act on) the idea that the answer to bad speech (in the case of Berkeley today) or election results that don’t please you is to riot. Your Maximum Leader is getting tired of the term “violent protest.” A “violent protest” is a riot. Riots are lawless mobs bent on destroying property and injuring others. We can’t have riots… If the rioters think that more rioting is going to affect Trump in any way they really ought to think again. Trump is the type of person (if you haven’t figured it out now you probably are downright stupid) that when threatened will threaten back. If you take a swing at him, he’ll take a swing back. And if you take a swing at the Chief Executive of the United States, you are likely going to be hit with much more force than you bargain for…

5) Your Maximum Leader is dismayed by Trump’s calls for tariffs, roll-back of trade agreements, and pulling out of TPP. All these things are bad and will have bad outcomes…

But other than than that… How was the play Mrs. Lincoln?

Carry on.

I Was Wrong. Terribly, Terribly Wrong.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader should have his amateur pundit status revoked. He got the results of the late Presidential election very, very, (and he can’t emphasize this enough - VERY) wrong. It is little consolation that most everyone else got it wrong too. Even the esteemed Larry Sabato and his “Crystal Ball” - which is your Maximum Leader’s favorite site for political punditry - got it waaaaaaay wrong.

Your Maximum Leader will try to digest what has happened and comment on it when he has some cogent thoughts on the matter. But here are a few items he’d like to put out there:

1 ) Not every person who voted for Donald Trump is a racist, woman-hating, sex-addicted, Islamophobe, degenerate. There are a lot of decent people out there who voted for Trump because they couldn’t abide by Hillary Clinton. Your Maximum Leader has been on the record stating that he’ll never vote for another Clinton, Bush, Kennedy, Roosevelt, or even Adams. Your Maximum Leader knows a great many people who voted for Trump because they wouldn’t vote for Clinton and “a vote for a 3rd party was a vote for Clinton.” (By the way, your Maximum Leader was told, often, that the reverse was also true, “a vote for a 3rd party was a vote for Trump.)

2 ) A vote for a candidate other than Clinton or Trump was, in fact, a vote for someone other than Clinton or Trump. Your Maximum Leader is a little embarrassed by his vote for Gary Johnson. Not because it was one vote less for a major party candidate. He’s a little embarrassed by his vote because, as he’s stated before, Johnson was a weak candidate who didn’t have mastery of foreign policy issues. Your Maximum Leader, if he had it to do all over again, would likely cast the same vote.

3 ) As hard as it may be for some, it would behoove everyone to try and give Donald Trump, President-elect Donald Trump, a chance to be a better President than he was a candidate.

4 ) Your Maximum Leader must tip his bejeweled mylan cap to Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon. From what your Maximum Leader can gather, they are the masterminds behind Trumps strategy to hit “safe blue” state rural areas. They seem, at this point, to have had the vision to project a path to victory and convinced Trump to take it. Trump must also be credited for being a tireless campaigner and doing all he could to get out to actually talk to the voters he needed. It is a tremendous accomplishment.

5 ) Your Maximum Leader can’t state it enough… Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate. Certainly your Maximum Leader thought that the one Republican she could knock off was Donald Trump. But he was wrong. She couldn’t even do that. Your Maximum Leader would admonish Democrats stop blaming their shortcomings on voters and seriously examine their candidate and her campaign.

6 ) Though he doesn’t normally read post-election books on how campaigns were run, he may make an exception for this election year.

7 ) It is at a time like this that your Maximum Leader wishes that there was more civility among the political classes in Washington. The worm turns. The wheel of karma rolls on. The shoe always comes to be on the other foot. It is precisely at the change of administrations when one party or the other comes to regret the things they have previously said. Specifically your Maximum Leader is thinking about President Obama’s “you lost” and “elections have consequences” comments to Congressional Republicans shortly after taking office. Your Maximum Leader can imagine President Trump using much saltier language to the same affect against Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in January 2017.

8 ) Your Maximum Leader hopes, but doesn’t really expect, that Mike Pence (Vice-President-elect Mike Pence), Speaker Ryan, and Senator McConnell, will be able to influence President-elect Trump with an agenda that can get done and can repair some of the damage done all around, by both candidates, in this campaign.

9 ) Get over attacks on James Comey. While your Maximum Leader would not have made the same decisions he did about releasing information about ongoing investigations, Comey did what he thought best and has been as bipartisan as it is possible for an FBI Director to be. It may also be that Comey’s letters may have had less impact than we all have thought. (Please see #5 above.)

10 ) Pollsters and pundits really need to figure out what the hell they are doing and do better. The Brexit vote should have been a red flag telling pollsters that people lie to pollsters - especially if by being honest they think that they will be branded as racists, bigots, and degenerates. Apparently only the USC/LA Times polling picked Trump. Your Maximum Leader seems to recall reading somewhere along the line how the USC/LAT polls were “complex” and “poorly weighted.” So he dismissed them. He thinks now that the method used to collect this poll data will be replicated by others. Particularly the identification of people to participate in long-term polling and seeing the evolution of opinion. Also, by talking to the same people month after month, a level of trust - and a level of honesty with the pollster - is established. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t know how this would work out, but it deserves being looked at.

That is all for now…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter and Gab.ai. His handle: @maximumleader

A Last Thought

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will grace you all with his last thoughts on the impending election. He’ll even do this in the first person, for your reading pleasure.

I’ve not commented on the 2016 election as some might have expected. Afterall, I am an amateur student of politics and have, since I was very young, had a keen interest in it. But this year’s election went off the rails early and I’ve never been so disgusted in all my life by the state of political discourse in our Republic.

Perhaps I am growing older, more cynical, more bitter, more everything. I still find myself watching, reading and listening to commentary, news and the thoughts of others when it has come to the 2016 election. And the whole thing continues to disgust me. Not only is it disgusting, I actually have fears for the future of our Republic.

These fears may just be a general feeling of dread that come from hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and month after month of election coverage that doesn’t really change, it just continues down the tawdry path it started on. Maybe it is more than just general dread.

Well, let me begin at the end…

As I tweeted back in June that Hillary Clinton will become the next President of the United States. I stand by that. She will win tomorrow and will have achieved her ambitious goal. She will succeed to the office held once by her husband and be the first woman to hold the office. That being said… Hillary Clinton is an ambitious, corrupt, self-serving, paranoid, small-thinking person who under any normal circumstances would never get the nomination of the Democratic Party much less be elected President. As I’ve said to many people in person, Hillary Clinton has most of Richard Nixon’s negative traits with none of his positive traits.

I have to agree with many people who say that Hillary has an impressive resume. She does. But what really has she done in any of her positions? Nothing. From the moment Bill Clinton left office it has been painfully clear that any position Hillary Clinton aspired to was only a stepping stone to becoming President. She’s not been building a resume of qualifications. She has been ticking boxes on a checklist as she looks up to the ultimate goal.

Now, in order to be President you have to have ambition. I know that. Everyone with any sense knows it. But there is ambition and there is what Hillary has been doing. John McCain, after years in the Senate, got to thinking - as every Senator does at one point in their political career - that he would make a great President. He didn’t go to the Senate to become President. It was an eventual aspiration. Often people who are so unabashedly envious of the highest office in the land don’t actually ever get the chance to run. Because that ambition seems tawdry and unseemly. I think of Bill Nelson of Florida. He is currently the senior Senator from Florida. He was overly ambitious. The proverbial man in a hurry. His colleagues (and detractors) in Florida recognized his ambition for what it was and started jokingly calling him “Mr. President.” His ambition was the end of him. Sure, being a US Senator from a large state is a good gig, but it wasn’t where he wanted to be. People saw his ambition and were concerned. This concern goes back to the beginning of the Republic. If someone wanted to be President so badly, it was a disqualification of sorts. They had their own interests in front of those of the nation. If anyone other than Hillary Clinton had so shamelessly sought the office - from the beginning - I firmly believe that they would never have gotten far along in the primaries because people would have been suspicious of their motives and avoided her. But lucky for Hillary Clinton, she has always benefited from common perceptions not seeming to apply to her. She’s always wanted to be President and many people have just been fine with that. Frankly, this probably upsets me more than others.

Hillary Clinton’s ambition is, I believe, largely at fault for her many shortcomings. Her email scandals, her penchant for secrecy, her contempt for the press are all manifestations of her ambition. She has seen so many ways in which the path to her goal could be derailed, that she has made every effort to avoid the situations that could be problematic. But those avoidance tactics have just complicated her path and made her the phenomenally weak candidate that she is.

In fact, Hillary Clinton is such a weak candidate she would have been crushed in a general election by any person the Republican Party put forward.

Except one.

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a narcissistic, megalomaniacal, carnival barker. He has no real understanding of how government works. He has blatant disregard for the institutions of government and of civil society. He is, as well I believe, an awful person.

It is hard to fully explain how bad a candidate Donald Trump is. I would try to point out bad policies. But it is hard to tell what his true beliefs are. I don’t honestly know that we know what Trump actually believes on anything. He says what he says without thought, reflection, or deeply held philosophy. Donald Trump is out for Donald Trump.

I’ve been told by Republican friends that Trump is better than Hillary. I don’t know how I could arrive at that position. Is he pro-life? Is he pro-choice? He’s been both. He seems to be against “globalism” and most every trade deal out there. I am for free-trade and think that globalism is generally a good thing. Trade deals don’t give everyone everything they want, because they are negotiated deals. One would think that Trump would understand how to make a deal. He has made business deals. But Trump can find a way out of a business deal by hiring a slew of lawyers and beating down his opponents. You don’t do that with a trade deal, or a military alliance, or a treaty obligation. Trump is against illegal immigration. I am too. But I am in favor of a radical overhaul of how we let people in from Central & South America. (For what it is worth, I am in favor of granting large numbers of temporary work visas for migrant workers. Many industries in the US would grind to a halt without immigrants - currently many illegal immigrants. I would prefer we establish a system to track coming and going and grant some legal status to the immigrant laborers who do much to build our nation.) Maybe Donald Trump is for comprehensive immigration reform. We don’t know. All we know is that he wants to build a wall. A big, beautiful, fucking wall. That is the extent of his discourse on immigration.

Donald Trump seems to be a rather vile person overall and I don’t want a vile person becoming President. I know he’s been accused of racism over the campaign. I don’t think that there is a lot of evidence of racism in his career prior to running for President, but he has been happy to play up the racist (at worst), or at least troubling (at best), prejudices of many Americans. That being said, Donald Trump hasn’t done anything to make anyone who isn’t white feel comfortable about how they would be regarded in “Trump’s America.”

I could go on and on about the negative qualities of both candidates. But I’ll stop here. It doesn’t matter. I don’t believe in the “undecided voter.” At least not this year. The only indecision in this year’s election was the type I had. Do you vote or not? That is being “undecided.”

I have voted in every election since I was eligible to vote. I live in Virginia and we have elections every year. Yes. Every. Single. Year. I’ve not missed one. President, Senate, Congress, Governor, County Board, Sheriff, Commissioner of Revenue, even Clerk of the Circuit Court. I’ve voted in all of them. I’ve voted for men, women, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. I’m a voter. Most of the time I’ve voted Republican. I’ve considered myself a “Conservative Republican” since the Reagan years. Sure I’ve pulled the trigger for some Democrats. (I voted for Chuck Robb for Senate in 1994 - when he ran against Oliver North. I also voted for Dave Crute as Mayor of Farmville, VA. I have also voted for other local office holders who are/were Democrats.) In Presidential Elections I’ve voted for Republicans. In primaries I’ve supported Republicans - and not always the winners. (I’ll admit that I flirted with Steve Forbes in ‘96, and before that Pat Buchanan against George H.W. Bush. Because I wanted Bush to be “more conservative.” In retrospect, I regret that. I should have had more appreciation in the moment for the elder Bush… Hell, this year I supported John Kasich. Frankly, I still support him and hope that he chooses to run in 2020.) But 2016 is the year I’m not voting for the “Republican” for President.

Donald Trump is no more a Republican than Vladimir Putin is a peacenik. Trump is Trump. All is about and for Trump. And just as assuredly as Donald Trump is not a Republican he is not conservative.

I’ve known my whole life that not all conservatives are Republicans and not all Republicans are conservatives. But since the 1980s it has been safe to say that Republicans were closer to my brand of conservatism than were Democrats. Today I don’t know what the party is for a conservative. Frankly, I’m not sure what will be left of the traditional party system in four years. Because either way you cut it, the parties are going to burn.

Yes. Both of them. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are disastrous for the parties for which they are standard bearers. It will happen first and harder for the Republicans. Over the decades I’ve heard, and been told more than once, that the Republican party is doomed and will split. But this is the first year I seriously think it could happen. It has been happening over the past four years. It happens when your party doesn’t have a firm set of beliefs and policy goals. The only thing unifying the Republican party has been opposition to Barack Obama. In many ways that is enough to get by, until the election comes around. Donald Trump has successfully driven out many conservatives. He has done all he can possibly do to alienate minorities from coming to the Republican party. And he’s doing all he can to burn down the party apparatus by making the election all about him - no matter what he says or does.

Now many of my Republican friends point out that the party “elites” have grown away from the “base.” In many respects that is true. But I prefer to think that no one in the Republican party has tried to provide leadership and vision to the base to move them forward. Many Republicans are no better than or different from Democrats when it comes to keeping their jobs and doing very little. That is a serious problem. But the solution to the problem is not Donald Trump. He only makes the problems worse. I know many people who have said for years “if only the Republicans would put up a “real conservative” - then we could really show the Democrats and change America.” These people didn’t like John McCain or Mitt Romney. Those nominees “weren’t conservative enough.” Well… Here’s the thing. There aren’t enough conservatives in America to win the Presidency on the basis of only winning conservative votes. You have to appeal to conservatives, moderates, some liberals, and to idiots in order to get elected. Having said all that, Donald Trump isn’t a conservative. He is a populist carnie who is appealing to the most base feelings of a significant portion of the population. He is not the leader of a broad-based movement that will save America. He is a flame that has already damaged political discourse and political institutions. No good can come from him.

I don’t know what the future will bring for the Republican party. But there is some serious soul-searching and work to be done. If they want to be a serious party for the future they will have to purge some of the voices that echo the worst of Trump. They will have to come up with an ideology and a standard bearer for that ideology. If not, they will become a marginal group that will shrink to irrelevance. It is possible that some conservatives will bolt and form another party. One that is more conservative. I don’t know. But change is coming.

Of course, the Democrats are not out of the woods themselves. Hillary Clinton will be a disaster for them and for the nation. All the problems that have beset her as a candidate will magnify themselves 100 fold as President. Her penchant for secrecy will be viewed as Nixonian - and as much as they press may not like to do it I believe that they will ultimately have to report on the misdeeds that will surely come. Hillary Clinton’s first reaction to criticism is attack the source, circle the wagons, and protect herself. The press will go along for a time, but they eventually come around to defending themselves. Hillary Clinton will continue to use the Democratic party as an extension of her ambition and the disillusionment that is currently being felt by Bernie Sanders supporters who think that she used dirty tricks to cheat their guy out of the nomination will grow. I suspect that we’ll see that Hillary Clinton has, or will, use the party apparatus in some way that she shouldn’t and it will cause lasting damage to the party.

And when both parties are damaged, and when both candidates are so terribly flawed it can only hurt the Republic. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton care a wit about the nation. They are in it for themselves. As such, they can’t be transformational leaders, or even leaders. They only know blunt force. When the only tool you have in your kit is blunt force, you meet nothing but resistance. If you think that Hillary Clinton can “bring America together” then you need to share whatever you’re smoking with Gary Johnson. She can’t. She’ll never bring along anyone who isn’t already supporting her. You can’t govern a diverse nation without reaching out. And she’s incapable of doing that.

So gird your loins for four years of partisanship, bitterness, invective, investigation, and accusation that will make the last eight years of Barack Obama seem like the Era of Good Feelings.

So if you are wondering, after this rambling wreck of a blog post, “who will Mike be voting for?” Well let me tell you. This is the year where I’ve realized that the franchise is only an affirmative franchise. We vote “for” someone. A vote “for” someone is a positive affirmation of that candidate. There isn’t a vote that relates that the recipient of that vote is the “lesser of possible evils.” And we don’t have a “no” or “none of the above” category. Up until 2016 I’ve been able to vote “for” everyone I’ve ever marked a ballot for. I may not have agreed with them on everything. I know that I’ve held my nose voting for some. But I’ve always been able to assure myself that the person receiving my vote was qualified to hold the office and wouldn’t engage in malfeasance in office. I can’t say that about either major party candidate this year. I thought for a long time I’d vote for Gary Johnson. But the more I’ve learned, the less impressed I’ve been. Johnson doesn’t seem up to the job. I suspect that I’ll go into the voting booth tomorrow and leave blank the spot where I vote for President. (I’ll cast a vote for Rob Whitman - my Congressman. And I’ll vote against the Constitutional measures on the ballot.) I’ll not endorse anyone for President - because not one of them are worth my imprimatur. They are all an awful lot and not worthy of the office for which they run.

There is some small nagging voice within me that says I should vote for someone. I may get into the voting booth and realize that I just HAVE TO vote for someone to be President. I don’t know. I may yet vote for Gary Johnson - if only to boost the future prospects of the Libertarian Party. I might vote for Evan McMullin - who doesn’t seem to be ill-informed, ill-mannered, or incompetent. One thing is certain, I’ll not vote for Clinton or Trump.

All this being written… I could be wrong. I doubt it. But I could be. I also encourage you to vote. (If you haven’t already. And aren’t dead.)

As I say as your Maximum Leader,

Carry on.

UPDATED: Ballot completed. Was voter 268 in my precinct. Felt compelled to cast vote for President. It was Johnson. Don’t feel good about that. But it is finished.

A Revised Electoral College Prediction

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader posted his Electoral College map back in July. If you have visited this site since July, you’ve surely wondered, “Is my Maximum Leader still confident of his Electoral College predictions?” Well, your Maximum Leader has made some adjustments. The outcome is the same, but here is his revised Electoral Map:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Congratulations, President-Elect Clinton and Vice-President-Elect Tim Kaine.

Carry on.

I’ve Seen Your Political Compass and I’ll Raise You Mine.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader’s buddy Kevin re-took the Political Compass test. He posted his results here.

Your Maximum Leader re-took the Political Compass Test. Here are his results:
PolitComp101416

Your Maximum Leader can’t immediately find the links to his previous results, but he thinks he’s grown more Libertarian and suspicious of authority.

UPDATED BY YOUR MAXIMUM LEADER: Something compelled your Maximum Leader to retake the test, but change some of his answers from “agree” or “disagree” to “strongly agree” or “strongly disagree.” (For example the first time he took the test he “agreed” that what happens in the bedroom should be private, but changed it to “strongly agree” in the second test.) The change of a few answers gave him this result:
politcomp2101416

A little more right-wing, but about the same on Libertarianism… Interesting.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Twitter and on Gab.ai: @maximumleader

It (Sort of) Lives!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is not dead or departed from this place. He’s just lazy and busy with real life.

Some things to put out there for you…

Your Maximum Leader has been working on an essay for this space. It started as an examination of the 2nd Amendment, but is now just a mediocre political screed. He does want to finish and publish it. If only for a feeling of accomplishment. Perhaps he’ll work on it this weekend when it will be unfit for man or beast to venture outside the air conditioning…

The Republican National Convention is over. For the first time since 1980 your Maximum Leader hasn’t watched a significant portion of a political convention. He normally watches most of prime time for both major parties. This year he’s watched nothing. He doesn’t plan on watching any of the Democrats party either. Both major party candidates are completely unpalatable to your Maximum Leader. He will be voting for Gary Johnson the Libertarian candidate. If he doesn’t vote for Johnson, he’ll be voting for Cthulhu.

Speaking of politics… Let your Maximum Leader be among the first to congratulate Hillary Clinton on being elected President of the United States. Here is your Maximum Leader’s electoral map preditiction:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Your Maximum Leader might move Indiana over to Trump with its 11 Electoral votes. But he isn’t ready to move that state over yet.

And moving away from politics…

Your Maximum Leader’s best buddy Kevin surprised him with some Bundaberg Ginger Beer. It was an unexpected and wonderful gift. When a large box arrived at the Villainschloss, your Maximum Leader’s offspring were anxious to open it and discover what lay within. When they did open the box there were less enthusiastic than was your Maximum Leader. Which is a little strange because all of your Maximum Leader’s offspring really like ginger beer. Now, the standard ginger beer of the Villainschloss is Goslings. Your Maximum Leader is quite fond of Dark & Stormys and he tends to keep a supply of both Goslings rum and ginger beer on hand to make them. Your Maximum Leader has also had “Q” Brand ginger beer as well as Saranac ginger beer. While both Q and Saranac have characteristics to commend them, your Maximum Leader doesn’t care for them as much as Goslings. This weekend will be the moment of truth. Your Maximum Leader will taste test Bundaberg ginger beer and Goslings ginger beer. Kevin did his own taste test between ginger ale and ginger beer here. Your Maximum Leader will publish the results here and let you know his thoughts on this.

That is all for now…

Carry on.

UPDATE: There is one little update about the Electoral College map posted above. Your Maximum Leader could see where Iowa & Indiana go for Trump. Which would make the totals: Clinton - 336, Trump - 202. (Nebraska would give a vote to Clinton as they divvy them out proportionally. Maine does too, but your Maximum Leader thinks Maine goes all to Clinton.) As 270 is the magic number, Hillary Clinton still wins.

The President and Going Places.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Tweety: @maximumleader

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

Yes Virginia, There is a Primary Election Coming.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is a lifetime Virginian. He loves his home state very much. Over the time he’s been alive, Virginia has been a reliably Republican state in Presidential elections. That has changed over the past two elections. Virginia has gone (in the words of the very wise Larry Sabato of UVA - and one of your Maximum Leader’s favorite political commentator types) from “red to purple.” Virginia still has a strong Republican streak, but has some heavily Democratic areas (namely “Northern Virginia” - the suburbs of Washington DC, Richmond, and “Hampton Roads” - the coastal area containing many cities that are both heavily minority and heavily military). Those Democratic areas have turned out in high numbers in the past two presidential elections and turned Virginia to Barack Obama. But they come out less for statewide elections and primaries… (Why that is would be another post for another day…)

Anyhoo…

After a lifetime of being ignored by politicians seeking the highest office in the land, your Maximum Leader’s state is now getting lots of political love from both parties. Our 13 Electoral Votes are, as the kids say, “in play.” Because we are now a “battleground” state, there is lots more politicking that your Maximum Leader is used to having…

Now allow your Maximum Leader to say that, as readers may guess, he is more politically tuned in than your “typical” American. He gets more involved in political matters and his views are generally known to local political types. The Democrats don’t generally go out of their way to talk to him about voting for them. But many Republicans do stop by the Villainschloss as times to vote come around.

Your Maximum Leader also gets calls… Lots and lots of calls… In fact, your Maximum Leader is pretty sure that he participated in the poll done by Christopher Newport University that is cited in this Washington Post piece. Here is the lede for the piece:

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump still have the lead in Virginia’s upcoming presidential primaries, according to a new poll from the Wason Center at Christopher Newport University — but both have lost ground in recent months to others in the race.

Clinton leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 52 percent to 40 percent with likely voters in the March 1 contest, according to the poll. Trump leads the crowded Republican field with 28 percent, followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 22 percent and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 19 percent.

The piece goes on:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich appears to be the least divisive Republican in the field, but that’s because 39 percent of voters don’t know enough about him to form an opinion. He takes only 7 percent of Republican voters in the survey. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush fares worse, winning only 4 percent of voters, despite being far better known. Kasich aside, Rubio is the only candidate on the Republican side viewed more favorably than unfavorably.

On the Republican side, your Maximum Leader is a little surprised at the strong Trump showing. He is, however, comforted in seeing that non-Trump candidates appear to be in striking distance. That number may close in the next few weeks. According to what your Maximum Leader sees and hears, the Cruz number might be a little soft. There are lots of “Tea Party” people in your Maximum Leader’s area who seem to have moved from Trump to Cruz over the past few months. And Cruz supporters seem to have some sort of organization around. Of course, that reflects only a small segment of the state, but it is what your Maximum Leader knows…

For what it is worth, your Maximum Leader is supporting, and will vote on March 1st for Ohio Governor John Kasich. Your Maximum Leader has come over his lifetime to adhere more and more to the William F. Buckley, Jr. rule of “electability.” That is to say that conservatives should support the most viable conservative candidate that is electable. In your Maximum Leader’s mind, that is John Kasich. Is he as conservative as others in the race. No, probably not. But then again, to quote Monty Python’s memorable line about Henry Kissinger (who is still a fixture in the American debate after all these years), “at least he’s not insane.”

To your Maximum Leader, conservatives, Republicans, anyone really supporting Donald Trump is a bit “touched” as Southerners say. Cruz has impressive Tea Party credentials, but your Maximum Leader is not a Tea Party type of guy. The Tea Party is a little too fringe. Additionally, the Tea Party (mistakenly) believes that a majority of the American people are inclined to be conservative. They exclaim that “if only we would nominate for President a real, true, ideologically pure, conservative we’d win the election.” Your Maximum Leader disagrees. Americans are, he believes, conservatively inclined in some areas and liberally inclined in others. They are a mis-mash of political ideologies and many of the political beliefs held by a “typical” American are often self-contratictory and self-interested. There is nothing wrong with that, but if you think that an ideologically pure candidate appeals to a majority of voters - well you’re wrong.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader is pulling the lever for John Kasich and hopes many others do too.

In a twisted way, on the other side of the coin, your Maximum Leader hopes many people on the Democrat side pull the lever for Bernie Sanders. This isn’t because he cares for Bernie Sanders. In fact he believes that Bernie Sanders is more than a bit insane. (As are many Socialists who can overlook history to extoll the virtues of socialism in its various forms.) But one thing Bernie Sanders isn’t is inauthentic. Your Maximum Leader respects authenticity and honesty (to the extent that any politician can be honest). Sanders is crazy and his policies are generally ruinous to our nation. But he is not a vile (and perhaps criminal) opportunist like Hillary Clinton. Your Maximum Leader would like to see Bernie Sanders get the Democratic nomination, because he would be easier to beat in November. Of course, thanks to how “Superdelegates” work in the Democratic Party, there is almost no chance he’ll win the nomination - even if he wins a fair number of primaries and caucuses. Hillary has those Superdelegates locked up.

So you may be asking yourself, “Self, how will my Maximum Leader vote in November if John Kasich is not the Republican Candidate.” Well… Many readers may remember your Maximum Leader’s dear friend (and sometimes contributor in this space) the Smallholder. (NB: Smallholder would be the Ruth Bader Ginsburg to your Maximum Leader’s Antonin Scalia if you thought of this blog as the Supreme Court. Which you shouldn’t. Because that would be stupid.) Smallholder asked your Maximum Leader if he would vote for Clinton over Trump in the General Election if that was the choice. The answer was “no.” In fact, to be clear, your Maximum Leader pretty much said that he’d vote for Kasich or Rubio or a third-party candidate. Smallholder pressed him and asked if it all came down to one vote, would that change his mind? No, it doesn’t right now. Your Maximum Leader may yet widen his choices before November; but he doesn’t see a lot of possibility for that. Your Maximum Leader has some friends who are trying to convince him to go for Ted Cruz, if Cruz should come up with the nod. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t see Cruz getting the nod - or his vote… But who knows… Hell… Some sexy co-ed could try to ply your Maximum Leader with whisky and sexual favors to give his vote to Bernie Sanders… Stranger things have happened…

Anyhoo…

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out between now and November. With few exceptions, all the probably plays in the dance towards November look pretty friggin dismal. Your Maximum Leader continues to fear for the future of our great Republic… And there it is…

Carry on.

Hey! Follow your Maximum Leader on the Tweety-box: @maximumleader.

Some Thoughts on Our Republic on Washington’s Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyhoo…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There you have it…

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

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Tweety-box.

Whereupon We Write About the Confederate Flag & Free Speech.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, for this update, will drop his familiar 3rd person narrative in favor of the more traditional 1st person blogger voice. So… Be prepared.

I write today about the vapors gripping our nation. We are all caught in a collective fit of apoplexy that is fracturing our already fractured nation. Of course, I’m speaking about the controversy over the Confederate Flag. Not the first Confederate national flag, but the Confederate Battle flag.

Let me get a few items out of the way first. I was born in Virginia. I love my native state. I love Virginia as much – and perhaps more – than the next guy. But, (as they say in the South) my people were not from the south. My people came to Virginia after WWII. They were from Ohio and Pennsylvania mostly. I am unaware of any relatives who fought in the US Civil War for the Confederacy. I am sure that if I bothered to look, I’d find some. But the relatives known to me who fought, fought for the USA. If my family history disqualifies me in your mind from reading further, great. Leave. Please don’t return. You are part of the problem here.

Having established a little bit of my background let me go further. When I was young, I was more interested in the Civil War than I am now. I was most interested in the Civil War from age 10 – 14. During those years I visited battlefields and read books on the war. I had respect for Robert E. Lee. I viewed him as a tragic figure. He was torn between his love of Virginia and his love of the United States. Ultimately, his state won out. And though he fought on the losing side, he was a good man. So I thought. This was due in large part to the hagiography that surrounds him. For a young kid who wasn’t thinking critically, what is not to like about this image of Robert E. Lee? He was from a good family. He was exceptional at West Point. He loved his wife and family. He served his nation. Then when faced with a tough situation he made a bad call, but still served honorably. Upon being defeated he did what he could to foster peace and reconciliation and lived out his life as a teacher.

That was all fine and good for a boy, but as I grew my views on Robert E. Lee and the Civil War changed. The first thing that no rational, informed and educated person can get past is slavery. The war was about slavery. There is no way around it. States’ Rights? You mean the right of the States to preserve slavery. Protecting your homes from invaders? They invaded because you started a war in order to preserve slavery. “My ancestors didn’t own slaves” they fought to protect themselves how about that? They fought to protect themselves, and to protect the people who wanted to preserve slavery. Every single argument about the cause of the Civil War boils down to slavery. That is it. Stick a fork in it. It’s done. It’s been done for 150 years. It is all slavery.

What about Robert E. Lee you ask? Well… As I grew up I realized that no matter how you cut it, the Civil War is about slavery. Robert E. Lee broke an oath he swore to his nation (the United States of America) when he accepted his commission in the army. After breaking that oath he did not stay at Arlington House and hope for the best (which I would consider somewhat honorable). He decided to take up arms against his former nation (the one he’d sworn to protect with this life) and fight to preserve a nation based on the institution of slavery. Ultimately, I can’t support that.

I have found myself admiring another Virginian of the time. George Henry Thomas. He was born and raised in Virginia. His family had deep roots in the Commonwealth. He went to West Point, he received his commission. He fought for the United States of America. When secession came he was offered the position of Chief of Ordinance in Virginia – and likely would have been a senior flag officer in the Confederate army. But, he realized he’d taken a vow to support, protect, and defend the United States of America. He stayed loyal to the nation and was disowned and disavowed by his family. (NB: So strong was the approbation in which his sisters held him that they refused a wagon full of supplies sent to them after Lee’s surrender from a Union officer on behalf of their brother stating that their brother was dead and they had no need of supplies from strangers.) Thomas was one of the most outstanding generals in the Union army, and, to this day, one of the least appreciated and least admired. He’s the Civil War era Virginian I admire. (NB: George Henry Thomas’ 199th birthday is coming up. It is Friday, July 31. Raise a glass to him. I will be.)

The strangest thing happened after the Civil War though. It was the losers who somehow seemed to win the public relations battle in the South. The losers wrote history after history and biography after biography and memoir after memoir all promoting the whole “moonlight and magnolia” view of the “Old South” and its “Lost Cause.” They whitewashed the reasons for war and promoted a romanticized view of life before the war. Consequently, generations of Americans grew up thinking that the South was full of huge plantations. On those plantations they had huge dances weekly and lived a genteel life. All the while the plantation owners were supporting their noble slaves who were happy in their place and well treated. Of course this isn’t real history. Before anyone objects, sure there might have been outliers in the South for which my description is, in part, accurate. But for every one “good” master there were many more James Henry Hammonds. (Google him if you don’t get the reference.) And frankly the big plantations were less common than one would think. Most farmers were small freeholders with zero or one slave. And regardless of how many slaves a person owned, the problem with the whole equation is that there is still a slave in the equation. No matter how benevolently one treats a slave, the person is still enslaved. Teach a slave to read, and the slave is still a slave. Work beside them in the field and share meals with them, the slave is still a slave. There is no getting around it.

So… We have a Civil War that is about slavery. We have a bitterly divided nation. We have the losers writing their side of the story. And we have the loser’s side winning the PR battle. (NB: I should be specific. The losing side wins the PR battle among white people after the war. I don’t want anyone to think that they won the PR war in the community of people they fought to keep enslaved.)

After the war the winners and the losers start to memorialize the war. Hardly a county seat or city hall in all the land didn’t have a statue or monument close-at-hand that didn’t commemorate the men of that locality that fought in the Civil War. They are all over the South. Frankly, they are all over the North too. (NB: In a funny historical turn, companies made good money on those monuments. If you study them closely you will see “standard model” solider statues all over.)

Not only are there monuments, but if you live in Virginia (as I do) there are cemeteries. There are “Confederate” cemeteries and there are “Federal” cemeteries. They are divided up just as you would gather from the names. Confederate soldiers buried in the one and Union soldiers buried in the other. They are separated forever in death as they were at their last moment.

So life goes on for about 90 years or so from the end of the war…

During those 90 years there starts to be a transformation of views among many white Southerners. That transformation is that all those ancestors that fought for the South were good and noble men who fought for a noble but losing cause and they weren’t all that bad anyway. Let me say this strongly and clearly now. Your ancestor that fought for the Confederacy wasn’t necessarily a bad or evil person; but they were wrong. They fought for a wrong cause – whatever their motivation. They lost, and they should have lost. (In fact there is inevitability to their loss.) It is hard to accept that an ancestor might have fought and died, or fought and suffered, for a bad cause. But they did. It is hard to keep in one’s mind the dual belief that one’s ancestors were good people despite fighting for a bad cause. It is easier to make an excuse for them. But the facts don’t support the excuse. It is hard to live with unpleasant truth, but sometimes living with unpleasant truth is all there is to live with.

So nearly 100 years after the Civil War what happens? We get the Civil Rights movement. And that is where our modern problems about the Confederate Battle flag start to come to the fore. That is when people who objected to the Civil Rights movement started flying the Confederate Battle flag everywhere they could. All those monuments I wrote about a moment ago, they got flags. State houses in the South got flags. Some states even put the Confederate Battle flag in their state flag. It was done to protest Civil Rights. Those flags weren’t there prior to the Civil Rights movement. They appeared because of the Civil Rights movement. The people responsible for this said it was all about “heritage, not hate” and that no one should take offence. But the timing makes the move rather transparent.

I do not doubt (or perhaps I don’t want to doubt) that today, in 2015, many people honestly believe that the Confederate Battle flag isn’t a symbol that at its core represents a fight to preserve slavery. But that belief is not supported by facts. The Confederate Battle flag stands for the Confederate States of America and the CSA was founded, built, fought, and perished over the issue of slavery. You can’t get around it. You shouldn’t get around it. It is what it is.

(NB: I don’t want to diminish the genuine suffering that everyone in the South experienced after the Civil War. Particularly in Virginia. I know, personally, many people who can cite the deprivation their ancestors were subjected to after the war. Where armies moved in Virginia the land was denuded. I know this because in my own home of Stafford County, VA there is hardly a tree in the whole county that is more than 150 years old. Why? Because every tree for miles around was cut down by one army or the other to build camps and to keep fires going. Farms were destroyed, livestock taken, and life made awful. It all happened. But, none of this changes the basic fact that the war was about slavery and that suffering after the war doesn’t give one the right to selectively create the history of the era.)

Now we come to 2015 and after a terrible mass-murder in Charleston, South Carolina we are met with a fit of national apoplexy over the Confederate Battle flag…

Let me just come out and state where I stand on this. The Confederate Battle flag should not be flown over public buildings or monuments, excepting Civil War battlefields, Civil War cemeteries or other places where the flag fits in a Civil War era appropriate historical situation. What does this mean practically? That flag shouldn’t fly over the Grand Canyon National Park. It can be flown over the Gettysburg National Battlefield. It shouldn’t fly over the South Carolina statehouse or anywhere on the grounds of the South Carolina statehouse (even near a monument to Civil War dead on the grounds of the statehouse). It can be flown over the “White House of the Confederacy” in Richmond, VA. It shouldn’t be flown over a National Cemetery with the dead of many different US wars. It can be flown over a Confederate cemetery that dates to the time of the Civil War. I do not object to small Confederate Battle flags being displayed on the individual graves of soldiers who fought and died under the Confederate States of America even if they are buried in a National Cemetery with the dead of many wars. (If the grave in question were the grave of a veteran of the CSA who died after the war I’ll grant you it is a hazy area where my inclination is to forego the Confederate Battle flag in favor of a US flag – as the veteran died as a citizen of the United States of America.)

Let me go a step further. Should those monuments I keep writing about come down or be moved. No. Absolutely not. They are sacrosanct. I don’t care if they have the battle flag displayed in stone, or bronze or whatever medium that is part and parcel of the monument itself. I don’t favor adding a flag – or maintaining a flag as part of that monument. Should we take down signs announcing that a particular burying ground is a “Confederate” cemetery? No. Should we dig up the remains of Confederate soldiers and move them to remote places where they are out-of-site? No.

Then we start to get into the more hazy areas concerning the Confederate Battle flag. Should retailers not sell the flag? That is entirely up to the retailer. If they don’t want to, don’t. If they do, by all means proceed. Should NASCAR ban the flying of the Confederate Battle flag at their events? They could. Frankly, that is, like retailers, up to them. I don’t care much one way or the other. Should states (like Virginia) ban the flag on commemorative automobile license plates? As I understand it, the license plate is actually property of the state (even though you, the car owner, pays for it). Thus, the license plate, like the grounds of a statehouse, the flag should go. Should the United States Congress start removing statues of Civil War era figures or Confederate imagery from the Capitol building? No, I don’t think so.**

**Excursion here: There is the matter of Statuary Hall in the US Capitol building. It is my understanding that each state of the Union is invited to donate two statues to be displayed there. It is the choice of each state which native son/s or daughter/s are to be displayed. Virginia has chosen to send only one statue – that of Robert E. Lee. Mississippi sent Jefferson Davis and James Zachariah George. Georgia sent Alexander H.H. Stevens. These are, in my opinion, poor choices. But rather than Speaker Boehner or a Committee of the House of Representatives telling the states to choose others, I’d prefer to see the states discuss swapping them out for others. If the states choose not to… That is okay by me. But let’s have a civil discussion of the matter.

Then we get into another area where flying the Confederate Battle flag isn’t a matter of question to me. That is the flying, or other display of the flag, on private property by normal citizens. If you want to fly a Confederate Battle flag, by all means fly it. If you want to paint it on your house, please do so. If you want it on your car or truck, display away. Frankly, I would take the same position if you wanted to fly a British flag, Canadian flag, French flag, Russian flag, Daesh flag, Nazi flag, butterfly flag, University of Alabama flag, UVA flag, “Happy Spring!” flag, or any other flag. Fly away. That is your right. (NB: My house currently has the Bennington flag displayed outside. I happen to like this flag a lot. It is one of my favorite of all of the historical flags of the US. I also have a Royal Standard of Scotland that I’ve flown from time to time. I also have a modern US flag that I fly often.)

You know what isn’t your right? It isn’t your right to say to another citizen that they can’t fly the flag on their land because it upsets you or gives you the vapors or makes you feel funny in the tummy. If the site of a flag causes your bowels to churn and your vision go blurry – you need to put away the pacifier, put on some grown-up clothes and get a life.

Because we’ve reached a point in US society that things have to be spelled out clearly because people are whiney about their feelings here is me spelling it out. The Confederate Battle flag can (and often should) be construed to support the Confederate States of America – a political entity that no longer exists and was founded to support and further slavery. The flag is appropriately displayed on public lands where it fits a specific historical context. Outside of this specific historical context, the flag should not be displayed on public lands or buildings. There cannot, and should not be, a prohibition on its display by private individuals on private land or vehicles.

To illustrate this point… A few miles away from me, another citizen of Stafford County has displayed a Confederate Battle flag. Not just a regular one. A big one. A very VERY big one. The flag is on a 90 feet tall pole. The flag itself is 22 feet high and 30 feet long.*** The flag pole is located right off Interstate 95 and is visible to everyone driving by in both directions. (Though it is more visible for a longer period on the northbound side.) Don’t believe me? Here it is this morning in a photo taken from my car.
Confederate Battle Flag of 95
Does this huge flag bother me? Yes, it does. I think it gives visitors and passers-by the wrong impression of my locality. But should the flag be taken down because it is offensive? No it shouldn’t. As much as it might upset me being there, it is the property owner’s right to fly it there (since it is flown with all the legal permits for a display that size). Just because people are offended doesn’t give those offended people the right to command him to remove the flag. This is, for me – and should be for you too I think – a free speech issue.

Free speech is coming to the point where it is an all or nothing proposition in this nation. Nothing has infuriated me recently as much as my fellow Americans getting gamy-handed and weak-willed on free speech. Take for example, Muslims try to kill people outside Dallas because of a draw the Prophet Mohammed cartoon contest – gotta be the fault of the people putting on the contest right? They were asking for it, right? WRONG AND WRONG AGAIN! It is the fault of the ignorant sacks of shit that were trying to kill the people at the cartoon event. Another example, opinionated people whose opinions differ from those of “mainstream” liberalism at college campuses being “disinvited” to speak (after invitations were offered) because students and/or faculty disagree with the views of the speaker. (NB: I am writing specifically here about Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Her case is tragically emblematic of this trend around the United States.) I am embarrassed to have to write how wrong this is. But here it goes anyway. If listening to someone express views that differ from your own, even if you find them deeply offensive, fill you with outrage to a degree that you are unable to function or carry on, then you are a mentally weak and I’d prefer you be disfranchised quickly because you obviously don’t have the wherewithal to participate in a democratic republic.

If a person with controversial views cannot speak on a college campus in the United States of America about their views, we are good and truly doomed as a republic. When students are so mentally frail that they have to censor people who dare to differ from them in the greatest (or least) way, those students do not deserve to be graduated or get a diploma.

When I wrote a few lines ago that free speech is an all or nothing proposition, I mean it is coming to that. I think that reasonable people can agree on limitations on free speech in a civil society. The clearest example of this is the proverbial “to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre” prohibition because of the possible public safety issue. I think we can agree that libel can be prohibited – because it is, by definition, telling a falsehood. But beyond immediate public safety or telling lies, limiting free speech is a very dangerous idea. Especially when you are trying to limit free speech on the basis of your “feelings.”

I am sorry that many black people feel oppressed, insulted, or sick to their stomachs when they see a Confederate Battle flag. I am offended as well. But neither of our feelings should trump the right of the person flying the flag to fly the flag. If a person wants to be offensive, that is their right. Once we start using peoples “feelings” as the arbiter of what speech is acceptable and what speech isn’t we are in a pretty dark and bitter place. Big Brother is, in that case, only a few steps and perhaps a stumble away.

In this whole flag debate, and in the debates about speech on college campuses many seem to want the “right” to be free from offence or outrage. That isn’t a right. It never has been and never should be. I am, frankly, completely outraged that someone, ANYONE, is tempted to limit the speech of others on the grounds that someone (even me) might be offended. I am perfectly capable of determining what offends me and what outrages me. When I hear it I’ll react accordingly. But when you try to say, “You can’t listen to so-and-so speak because their ideas are offensive” my heckles go up and I would like to defenestrate you from a tall building.

(NB: I wonder if this little epistle of mine needs its own trigger warning because of my use of hyperbole in threatening people with defenestration and denial of college degrees. By the way, the very concept of a “trigger warning” makes me think people who need them are so infantile that I want to make them wear some sort of modern scarlet letter so that I can give them a wide berth.)

Basically, this whole Confederate Battle flag thing has brought out the worst in over-reaction and hysteria when it comes to free speech. Sadly, very few people of the left appear to be concerned over this broader issue. Just as sad is that many on the right as just as content as their leftist friends to over-react. No one seems to be out there saying “Okay, the flag at the South Carolina Statehouse is wrong, but there has got to be a limit to all this.” I suppose if falls to erstwhile bloggers to stand up and say stop.

Carry on.

***Just a little pet peeve of mine that has gone unwritten to this point, but I feel I have to get off my chest. The Confederate Battle flag is a square – not a rectangle. The flag is equally high as it is wide. All these Confederate Battle flags that are longer than they are tall annoy me on principle.

UPDATE ON 7/15/15: A friend of your Maximum Leader pointed out to me yesterday night that the Confederate Naval Jack (which is the same design as the Confederate Battle flag) is actually longer than it is tall. Thus he believes that the flag that everyone seems to be displaying all over is actually a replica of the Confederate Naval Jack. While I think this is a bit of a stretch, I’ll go with it… For now at least…

The More Things Change…

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

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

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

They were, compared to today, different ages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Political Leaning Quiz & Washington Quiz

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

 on political map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

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