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The More Things Change…

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

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

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

They were, compared to today, different ages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Political Leaning Quiz & Washington Quiz

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

 on political map

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

La France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hear him out on this.

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

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

That is the Franco-American relationship.

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

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

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

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

Anyhow… Those are some thoughts on France…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

More Musings on Scottish Independence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Musings on Scottish Independence

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

Your Maximum Leader is deeply conflicted on this question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

President’s Day 2014

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

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

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

1) George Washington. The first president, and the overriding shaper of the office. He set down many of the precedents that still function today. He established the cabinet system, and gave shape to the executive branch. He set down the major goals of US foreign policy (shunning entangling alliances) which held until (arguably) the Second World War. He also flexed (for the first time) federal supremacy over the states by putting down rebellions in Pennsylvania.

2) Abraham Lincoln. He saved the Union.

3) Franklin Roosevelt. Created the modern presidency (characterized by a strong executive). He also created the modern federal government (characterized by not only supreme federal authority but by an all-intrusive federal government).

4) James Knox Polk. Your Maximum Leader has long been a torch bearer for Polk. He has always believed in the greatness of James K. Polk. Polk promised four things would be accomplished during his presidency. 1 - the Indian question in the south would be resolved; 2 - Texas would enter the Union; 3 - California would become part of the US; 4- a northern border with Canada west of the geat lakes would be fixed. Polk said if these four things were not done in his four years, he would not seek another term. During his term he: sent the army in to round up and move the Indians in the south, he faught a war with Mexico and acquired Texas, California, and other western lands. He was (thanks to British/Canadian intransigence) unable to negotiate a northern border with Canada. He refused to run for a second term, and retired. (Your Maximum Leader will also add that he died shortly after leaving office - which your Maximum Leader also thinks is a generally good thing for ex-presidents to do.)

5) Ronald Reagan. He redefined the role of the modern federal government. (If you don’t think so, look at the administration of Bill Clinton and guess again.) And he won the Cold War.

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

There you have it…

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

Carry on.

Google keyword search - local politics edition

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has some Google keyword searches set up. Once a day he gets a message from Google listing all the matches to the various standing searches he has and he’ll peruse the results with varying degrees of interest (based largely on headlines - not the best method but it is was it is). Never once has it occurred to your Maximum Leader that anything he might have written would turn up on someone else’s Google keyword search.

Well… He was wrong…

So, Saturday afternoon your Maximum Leader and Mrs Villain were standing inside the garage at the Villainschloss chatting with a friend when he espied two people walking down the cul-de-sac towards the house. Your Maximum Leader did not recognize the two at a distance. As they approached, his friend said, “Oh, that looks like Scott Hirons and Meg Bohmke. They were in my neighborhood earlier today doing some canvassing.” Sure enough, it was Scott Hirons and Meg Bohmke coming to canvass your Maximum Leader and Mrs Villain. As it turns out, Scott had a Google keyword search set up for his name and got an alert that my last blog post (immediately below) was published. (NB to Scott: Hello there!) He read my post and started to figure out who Your Maximum Leader might be. Then, after putting the clues together, he figured out your Maximum Leader’s true identity. Then he realized that he’d not canvassed your Maximum Leader’s neighborhood. So he contacted Meg Bohmke and together they walked through the neighborhood.

Your Maximum Leader, Mrs Villain, Scott Hirons and Meg Bohmke had a lovely conversation. It was wide ranging on local issues (but focused quite a bit on education - which along with roads is always the biggest local issue around here). We probably took up too much of the candidate’s time, but it was well worth it. Your Maximum Leader got himself set straight on many items that Meg had done during her time on the school board. Indeed, some of his education came from Mrs Villain who just hadn’t ever spoken about things she knew that Meg had gotten accomplished during her term. All in all, your Maximum Leader feels much more comfortable voting for Meg for supervisor - and Scott already had a strong vote from your Maximum Leader.

Your Maximum Leader is pretty sure that his regular readership doesn’t include many (or really any) of his neighbors (except one (NB to Sue: Hey Sue!)); but for those of you out there who might have a keyword search that leads you to this page, consider this a formal endorsement and even an exhortation - nay a command. Get yourself out there and vote for Meg Bohmke and Scott Hirons. They are both good people who have a vision for Stafford County and where we need to be going. Visit their websites: Scott Hirons (or follow Scott on Twitter @scotthirons), Meg Bohmke (or follow Meg on Twitter @megbohmke).

Get out there and vote on November 5th.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

A quickie

Greetings, loyal minions. You Maximum Leader says something about a rebirth of his blog, and then takes a month off. What a lousy bastard your Maximum Leader can be…

Anyhoo…

Some quick thoughts for those of you who might be stopping in…

As some of you know, this is the year when your Maximum Leader’s home state, the great Commonwealth of Virginia, holds elections for statewide office. In all the years since he’s been eligible to vote, your Maximum Leader has generally been pleased enough (or even downright excited) by the quality of candidates for statewide office. He’s said it here before, all in all, he’s pleased with his state government. Well… The past few years his level of pleasure at his state government has decreased somewhat. But this year he must say without equivocation, the choices he has for statewide office are just terrible. Let him even go further. (Cover your eyes ye of low tolerance for bad language!) The choices he’s got for Governor suck big donkey dicks. Terry McAulliffe, the Democrat and former Clinton hack, is a miserable piece of shit. Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican and current Attorney General of VA, is a strident warrior in the culture wars who is a bit too strident for your Maximum Leader. Basically, your Maximum Leader can’t think of a pleasant thing to say about either man running for the chief executive office of his great Commonwealth. So as it is, he’ll be voting for Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for Governor. In the Lt Governor’s race your Maximum Leader will vote for Ralph Northam, a Democratic state senator and doctor, over Earl Jackson, a Republican and minister. Northam is a fairly liberal Democrat with whom your Maximum Leader doesn’t share many political views. Jackson is cut from a similar cloth as Ken Cuccinelli. Your Maximum Leader just can’t vote for him… And then there is the Attorney General’s race. Your Maximum Leader will vote, gladly, for Mark Obenshain, a Republican state senator and scion of a prominent Virginia political family, over Mark Herring, a Democratic state senator. Further down the ticket your Maximum Leader will continue to vote for (as he has in elections past) Bill Howell and Richard Stuart. Both are Republicans who represent your Maximum Leader. Howell is also Speaker of the House of Delegates and a very influential man in state government. Both Howell and Stuart are good people, which helps when casting a ballot. Further down the ticket… Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure for whom he’ll be voting for Supervisor and School Board member. He is leaning towards Meg Bohmke for Supervisor as she has been endorsed by many friends and acquaintances of your Maximum Leader. But endorsements aside, Bohmke has been on the School Board and hasn’t seemed to do too much in that role. So, there is trepidation in your Maximum Leader’s mind on this one. Your Maximum Leader will also vote for Scott Hirons for School Board. Mrs Villain taught the Hirons kids in school and thinks very highly of Scott.

So there it is… All your Maximum Leader’s endorsements for voting in Virginia this year… As if you all care…

In other news…

How about this Government shutdown? Well… A pox on all the Houses (and Senate and President). All share some level of blame for what is a bad situation. Your Maximum Leader firmly believes that there is a proper role for government. He also believes that government is a necessity for civilized society. The primary role of the government is to function and execute it’s role. Now your Maximum Leader takes a view towards very limited government at the federal level. He does believe that Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, or whatever the hell you want to call it is a bad idea, is poorly executed, and doesn’t make a lot of economic sense. But really… The law was passed. A few elections have occurred since passage. And the Supreme Court of the US has made initial pronouncements in favor of the law as enacted. Basically, that is a lot of “upholding” and not a lot “repealing.” The Tea Party faction of the Republican Caucus needs to get together and think of some other tactic on addressing this law. Shutting down the government isn’t the answer. Failing to raise the debt ceiling is not the answer. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t have high expectations for Congress. Indeed, they are very very low. But he does expect them to do ONE (and precisely 1) thing every year. That is to pass a budget. Even if the budget is “okay we’re just passing last year’s budget again without changes.” It is hard work, but it can be done. If you want a longer screed on this, send your Maximum Leader an email or tweet him (@maximumleader)

In more news…

At Professor Mondo’s suggestion your Maximum Leader has listened to a few episodes of Welcome to Night Vale. Your Maximum Leader can’t decide if he likes it or not. It is clever. But there is a quality to the narrator’s voice that puts off your Maximum Leader… He’ll probably keep listening for a while.

Like Robbo, your Maximum Leader didn’t blog much about his beloved Washington Nationals this year. He had high hopes for the team and did think they would make the playoffs. As we know that didn’t happen. Your Maximum Leader holds out high hopes for next year. He only wants his team to find a good manager and start winning. There is a lot of scuttlebutt about Cal Ripken Jr. being interested in the Nationals manager job. Your Maximum Leader pretty much agrees with Bos on Ripken for Nats manager.

Then there are the Washington Capitals… Your Maximum Leader’s hockey team are going to have a tough row to hoe to get to the playoffs in a newly minted “Metropolitan” Division in the Eastern Conference. He hopes it happens, but he wonders if the core of the team is getting a little old and the competition being a little too tough. He’ll be following closely how the season goes…

And finally… Your Maximum Leader would like to see the Los Angeles Dodger and the Boston Red Sox in the World Series… Then, being a National League guy, he would like to see the Dodgers win. But those Sox will be hard (VERY HARD in fact) to stop…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

More thoughts on Syria

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure if he’s mentioned it here specifically, but he’s been a more observant Catholic over the past few years than he was at the time of this blog’s founding. He will not set he is a “better” Catholic - as that would denote a sort of spiritual accomplishment that he doesn’t feel he’s earned. Let’s just say that your Maximum Leader is doing what he can to walk a better path…

Anyhoo… That wasn’t where he planned on starting out… So let us try this again…

Your Maximum Leader was in church today and although this was a regular ole Sunday in “Ordinary Time” - the 23rd Sunday in fact. But the presiding Priest noted today that by decree of our Bishop at the request of His Holiness, Pope Francis, today was also a Sunday offered up for Peace and Justice in Syria.

Sadly, this announcement caused your Maximum Leader to be a bit distracted during Mass as he thought about what he ought to be praying for in terms of the Syrian situation.

Of course, your Maximum Leader offered up a prayer for peace in Syria. This is sort of a general prayer of hopefulness. Hope that somehow - as if my magic or miracle - the warring parties in Syria will just stop their fighting and decided to sit down and discuss how they can all get along better. Your Maximum Leader offered up this prayer, with others in the congregation, as we followed the guidance of our Priest. Your Maximum Leader contemplated this action. He wonders about being disingenuous by offering up such a prayer. He doesn’t honestly believe that there is a remote possibility of this happening. Indeed, an angel of God could come down and appear before Assad and all the other warring actors and none of them would take the sign - if you asked your Maximum Leader.

So what then… What should he pray for? More practically, what should he hope for from his government and governments around the civilized world?

Well… If your Maximum Leader wasn’t clean in his earlier post; let him clear up his position insofar as it can be made clear. The government of Bashir Assad has committed horrible atrocities against his people (and all humanity by extension) and deserves to be harshly punished for it. What your Maximum Leader can’t figure out is exactly how Assad can be held to account. Let’s list some items that factor into the equation here:
1) President Obama has said that regime change is not a goal. This is probably a good thing. Since we know that Assad has control of Syria’s chemical weapons it would be bad to topple him and not know who might end up with Syria’s chemical weapons. On the other hand, we know that Assad will use those weapons so he can’t be trusted with them.
2) Russia and China will block United Nations action in Syria. By this your Maximum Leader means that they will prevent any real action on Syria by the UN. Of course, the UN is a toothless agency in any event.
3) Since the US has been wailing and gnashing our teeth about what to do in Syria, the chances that we could actually find where the Syrians are hiding chemical weapons are slim. This said, one isn’t sure you would want to blow up caches of chemical weapons for fear of incidentally releasing them while trying to destroy them.
4) Without putting forces on the ground, what action could the US (and or her allies) actually do to punish Assad? About the only thing your Maximum Leader can think of it bombing airfields and fixed military installations. But it is likely that Assad has moved civilian hostages into those fixed positions so we would be guaranteed of killing people we don’t want to kill. (NB: One cannot be sure from listening to the President and his advisers exactly if we want to kill anybody. One gets the feeling that we wish we could destroy their stuff without hurting anyone in particular.)

Your Maximum Leader is just stuck. He can’t figure out what can be done in a situation that does, in fact, require some sort of action. Your Maximum Leader has heard lots of military types telling Congress that the US has “goals” but not once has an actual “means” to achieve a “goal” been articulated. Sure, we all want the Assad regime’s ability to deliver chemical weapons to be degraded or eliminated. But how the hell do you actually do it?

Your Maximum Leader is open to being convinced. But it isn’t happening…

So back to church… Your Maximum Leader was asked (along with the rest of the community in attendance at Mass) to pray for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria. Your Maximum Leader offered up such a prayer, but was again distracted by how this could come to be. Since he believes that all sides in Syria would disregard an angel of the Lord asking them to stop fighting; he isn’t sure what he could be praying for to happen. Then an idea came to him. If Russia and China both told Assad to tow the line in some way, then we would see a change. The dictator is only remaining dictator because he has powerful friends to keep his ability to wage war going. This is not to say that Assad would immediately have to stop when Russia and China said so; he could continue. But his ability to grind out the rebels would be reduced. He would be fighting to survive with resources that would not be replenished.

Will your Maximum Leader pray for Russia and China to try and rein in Assad. Sure he will. He’ll pray for it because he doesn’t see anyone on the international stage who could convince those two nations to do otherwise. Obama certainly can’t. Neither can Hollande.

In the meanwhile… Syrians will just keep killing each other.

Carry on.

(Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader)

Fool me once…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aye. There’s the rub.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much to comment upon… So little time

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has noticed that today there is so much happening in the world upon which he wants to comment. And he has so little time to comment upon it. So him go back to the ole tried and true snarky link dump to see what he can do here for your reading pleasure…

The big news of the day comes from the Supreme Court of the United States…

First, SCOTUS rules that a state court must take up the case of an adoptive girl: Your Maximum Leader should get the opinion and read it before he spouts off… but… Your Maximum Leader feels pretty strongly that parents have rights. Having said that, it seems as though the biological father “waived” his rights to parenting during the biological mother’s pregnancy and then had regrets and discovered some Cherokee ancestry under which he could sue for custody. On the one hand, it seems like the biological father is a loser who is (in practice) no more Cherokee than is your Maximum Leader and is using the courts to redress a regret he has. On the other hand, he is the father and your Maximum Leader isn’t sure of the circumstances underwhich the pregnancy proceeded and if the father had a chance to “claim” his paternal rights. Sadly, the biggest loser in this whole case is the poor girl who is going to have “issues” as a result of the discord in which she is being raised.

Okay… That first story wasn’t really the big one…

SCOTUS “guts” the Voting Rights Act: One would think from reading the headlines that the majority in Shelby County vs Holder was a veritable Hannibal Lecter dissecting the hapless Voting Rights Act and feeding it to an unsuspecting party of wealthy political types. Frankly, your Maximum Leader likes this decision. The under-reported part of the decision is that Congress could pass laws to the re-establish the “gutted” portions of the Voting Rights Act; they just can’t use decades old rationale and keep reauthorizing it. Your Maximum Leader, broadly speaking here, thinks that states should be treated equally under the Constitution. If Congress wants the Department of Justice to review and approve redistricting plans (and the like) then they should pass legislation that covers all states; not just those in the South. Frankly, the Federal Government shouldn’t have preapproval power over redistricting plans. If there is a problem with redistricting, duke it out in the courts after it has been passed by the people elected to do these things. And just so you don’t think that your Maximum Leader is focusing on redistricting… He understands that other measure that could restrict someone’s ability to vote could be affected by this ruling. Having said that it seems clear that the Court has not touched parts of the Act that prohibit outright discrimination. Also, the Court has ruled that Federal requirements to be able to vote supersede those of the states. So it seems unlikely that states will rush out to establish literacy tests and other hurdles intended to keep minorities from voting. And so that he is clear, your Maximum Leader has never objected to requirements to provide photo identification to prove that one is who one claims to be in order to vote. He’s always found objections to proving one’s identity before voting to be ridiculous.

In other news…

Harry Reid calls House Republicans Crazy: No doubt many of them are in your Maximum Leader’s estimation. But just because they are crazy doesn’t keep them from being part of the government…

The Pope “snubs” a high-falutin’ concert: Your Maximum Leader is liking this Pope. While your Maximum Leader would be happy to attend a nice performance of Beethoven’s 9th, he likes the message the Pope is sending by missing the concert. Your Maximum Leader is beginning to think that this Pope has the potential to be a big game-changer.

Putin refuses to hand over Snowden: No surprise there. It is just like the Cold War all over again. Only without the Commies and mutually assured destruction. Your Maximum Leader must admit that he is over two minds on Snowden. On the one hand he is somewhat grateful that the spying programs of the NSA have been exposed and people are upset and worried about their privacy. He hopes that Congress will do something to rein in the excessive power that Congress has allowed the intelligence community to gain (through things like the ill-conceived Patriot Act). On the other hand, we need to be able to keep secrets and those who disclose our nation’s secrets need to be punished. If agents were compromised and killed or imprisoned (or foreign assets of our agents killed, imprisoned, tortured or “disappeared”); then Snowden needs to be punished to the fullest extent of our law.

In more fluffy “news”:

Giada De Laurentiis is no Paula Deen: Seems some Deen fans are upset with the lovely Giada because the execs at Food Network decided to supplant Deen’s shows with Giada’s shows. Now your Maximum Leader likes butter, pork and down-home cooking as much as the next guy… But he really likes looking Giada a hell of a lot more than Paula. And Giada’s stuff is probably a little healthier for him… So there is that… But really now… Giada is so hawt!

What is the best movie that flopped at the box office? Your Maximum Leader is a big “John Carter” fan (he must admit). But his also is a big “Serenity” fan as well. There are others that he can’t recall here… But John Carter was the first that popped into his brain.

There you go. A link dump…

Carry on.

Various thoughts on Death

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is trying to make some time to blog. Why you might ask? Well, no reason in particular save that of thinking that he might have something to (virtually) say. There was one specific impetus today to write. He read a blurb on some website he frequents (and cannot recall now) that interviewed some very tech savvy people and asked them what ancient technology they insisted on keeping though it was very much outdated. One person talked about an old touch tone phone at their home they loved. Another talked about an old calendar notebook. But one said a blog.

A blog you say…

Hummm… Your Maximum Leader has one of those. Is this medium truly ancient and dead? Well. If it is it makes your Maximum Leader more resolved to try and keep using it.

So…

Your Maximum Leader has been thinking about death a little bit recently. The thought was first brought on a few weeks ago when Mrs Villain’s grandmother passed away. She was 105 and 3 months. She was, if your Maximum Leader might be forgiven for sounding uncaring, ready to go. And it was her time. Indeed, it was past her time. Probably 3-7 years past her time depending on which event one might want to use as a delineation. (She broke her hip about 7 years back and became mostly immobile at that point. But about 3 years ago her sight and hearing gave out pretty much continually - there were days when she seemed to be able to hear better than others.)

Regardless. She shuffled her mortal coil without excessive suffering or illness. As your Maximum Leader tweeted that night (using a paraphrase of a prayer that jumped into his awareness), the long burden of years was lifted for her.

In some ways, the long burden of her years was lifted for the rest of us as well. Your Maximum Leader doubts that she really remembered who he was for the past few years. There were times when she seemed to recognize Villainette #1. She did always remember Mrs Villain. Your Maximum Leader was amused to himself that she was able to recall Villainette #1. Your Maximum Leader’s eldest did make an impression on “great nannie” as we called her. We took Villainette #1 up to great nannie’s house in Rhode Island a few times before age and the onset of some infirmity required the move to the assisted living facility. Great nannie must have really bonded with Villainette #1 in a way that few did afterwards. Your Maximum Leader was amused that great nannie would remember Villainette #1; but wasn’t too sure about the father of this growing girl.

Great nannie also loved the Wee Villain. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure that she always knew that the Wee Villain was her great grandson; but he was always sure that great nannie loved boys. She raised two of her own. She always seemed to prefer the company of men (over the company of “weak women”). Your Maximum Leader thinks that, with her own strong New England personality, she just had little toleration for the public face of women in her age.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure exactly how he should feel about great nannie’s passing. He is a little relieved. He thinks that it is something of a blessing. At some level he might even be happy for her. But he generally isn’t sad. He’s prayed for her (now that your Maximum Leader is trying to be more observant of his Catholic faith). But he isn’t sad. Should he feel some guilt about this? Perhaps. But as far as deaths go, this one is as good as one can get.

After thinking about this peaceful passing, there are other ruminations on death that come into his mind.

Two cases in particular. That of murderer Jodi Arias and kidnapper Ariel Castro.

Allow your Maximum Leader to step back and go over some ground that he’s not trod here in a while. For those of you who might not have been around years ago at the onset of this blog (and if you weren’t your Maximum Leader has to wonder what on earth brought you here more recently), your Maximum Leader has for most of his life favored and supported the death penalty. That effectively changed thanks to a post by our bloggy friend Skippy. The post concerned the case of Cameron Todd Willingham. That post, the links in it (especially to the New Yorker piece on Cameron Todd Willingham) and later the movie Incendiary basically changed the way your Maximum Leader thinks about the death penalty and its application.

(NB: You should read all of those links. And if you get a chance, rent Incendiary. Your Maximum Leader drove from his home in Fredericksburg, VA to downtown DC to see the movie during its limited run at one cinema in the area.)

Basically, the death penalty is over applied in the US. We like to think that we are being tough on crime by prosecuting and convicting in death penalty cases. But really, we are in the end harming our justice system. The harm is caused by a pervasive sense of doubt as to how the death penalty is applied and if it was called for. Was the death penalty sought because the accused was poor? Was black? Was marginally mentally competent? Was the prosecutor up for re-election? Too many questions.

But then just as one’s mind starts to ponder the many questions about the death penalty, as person like Jodi Arias comes around.

Without restating the whole sorrid case allow your Maximum Leader to summarize Jodi Arias thusly: a somewhat cute crazy bitch murdered her sometimes boyfriend. Unlike Skippy your Maximum Leader doesn’t find Jodi Arias all that physically attractive so he doesn’t quite get the national fascination with the story. (We Americans do like to follow capital cases with a hot defendant. Your Maximum Leader is willing to concede that he might have been more interested in the Arias case if a) he had found Arias more physically attractive and b) it hadn’t just gone on and on and on and on.)

Now… In the case of Jodi Arias, the state should go ahead and execute her. This is as clear a proper application of the death penalty as there can be. Crazy woman has wild monkey sex with boyfriend in the shower. He tells her afterwards that he’s not taking her on vacation with him. Crazy woman stabs and shoots him to death and then plays stupid. Jodi Arias should, now having been convicted, be ushered quietly in front of a firing squad and shot. Sadly, only Utah still shoots people - so lethal injection it is.

Unless you are against the application of the death penalty in all cases (and bully to you if you are); your Maximum Leader can’t see any reason why Jodi Arias shouldn’t be executed. (NB to Skippy: Okay there is one reason. To be Skippy’s sex-toy for a period and then be executed.)

So now having stated a case where your Maximum Leader has no trepidation in serving up an execution, let him move on…

At lunch with some respectable men about town the other day your Maximum Leader mentioned off-handedly that Ariel Castro should not be considered for the death penalty.

Just in case you missed it, Ariel Castro is the Cleveland man who kidnapped three young girls. Raped them. Beat them. Induced miscarriages in them. And ultimately fathered a child (of rape) by one of the kidnapped girls. He repeated these crimes over and over on these girls for a period of at least 10 years.

Yet this man shouldn’t, in your Maximum Leader’s estimation, be prosecuted for capital crimes. The most simple reason for this is that none of his victims died. Now, you are thinking to yourself, “Self, what about those miscarriages.” Good point. Although he’s against abortion, it isn’t quite the same. Pregnancies end for many reasons. Even the healthiest and most careful women can miscarry. Though there is a purposeful element to the miscarriages/abortions inflicted by Castro on those poor girls, your Maximum Leader isn’t able to commit to them being murder under the laws of the land. (NB: If it turns out that there is evidence that the babies had reached a stage of development where they might have lived outside the womb if delivered; then your Maximum Leader will reconsider this opinion.) Castro is a terrible waste of a human being. But his victims live. Because of that, the state shouldn’t attempt to kill him.

Your Maximum Leader didn’t realize the shock that this position would cause at the lunch table. One of his friends asked if his opinion would be different if the victim was one of the Villainettes? Of course it would. Your Maximum Leader would seriously advocate for the execution of people who inflicted minor harms on his daughters. But, that is because your Maximum Leader is their father. The law should be applied without that passion. It should be applied rationally and at arms length. Being as objective as possible, Ariel Castro, in your Maximum Leader’s opinion shouldn’t die for his crimes. A lifetime of solitary confinement punctuated by prison shower sodomy? That seems just. But death seems too much.

You may disagree (and frankly you are welcome to). But from what he knows now, that is how your Maximum Leader sees it.

So, there are some thoughts your Maximum Leader has been having about death… And look at that… He’s made a blog post out of them. Perhaps this medium isn’t as moribund as expected.

Carry on.

Some Thursday Randomness

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is grateful for each and every one of you that might still come by the space. He might check his site stats at some point soon to see how many of you there might be…

Anyhooo….

Some random bloggy thoughts for you all this Thursday…

Your Maximum Leader was surprised at Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to abdicate the Throne of St. Peter. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure why people are calling this a retirement (or even worse saying the Pope is quitting). Since the Pope is the autocratic head of a sovereign state it would seem as though this is more an abdication than a retirement. After some reflection your Maximum Leader thinks that Benedict is doing the right thing by stepping aside. The government of the Roman Catholic Church (the Roman Curia as it were) needs reform and a more youthful and vigorous hand to lead it. This isn’t just your Maximum Leader’s take after reading reports all over the interwebs. Anyone with half a brain who’s looked at the Roman Curia at all in the past 30 years can see how it needs to be reformed and revamped. A modern church (that is a church functioning in the modern age - not “modernizing” theology as many would advocate) requires a modern Curia and bureaucracy. The Benedict and JPII were both proclaimers of the Word. The church, for what your Maximum Leader’s opinion is worth (NB: not much), needs to reform how it works very badly.

In fact, your Maximum Leader would entertain speculation that the condition of the Roman Curia and its need for reform is THE primary reason why the Pope is abdicating…

One more thought on the Pope’s abdication… Your Maximum Leader thinks he should go to a quiet monastery for the rest of his life and be known as “Brother Josef.”

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t give a damn about Chuck Hagel and if he is confirmed as Secretary of Defense. Frankly, unless there is some glaring (generally criminal or nearly criminal) action for which a nominee is responsible; the President should get whomever he wants in whatever job he wants the person in. Elections have consequences you know. Hell, your Maximum Leader doesn’t want John Kerry as Secretary of State… But in your Maximum Leader’s opinion being a misguided dickhead in and of itself is not a disqualification for the office.

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t like the games both sides are playing with all this sequestration stuff. As your Maximum Leader sees it, the House will be blamed for everything regardless of the veracity of the attribution of blame. The President will say (and be believed in saying) that he tried to work with Congress, but his calls fell on ears deafened by partisanship. Harry Reid will say that the Senate was ready to work with the President and the House and he can’t do anything more. And Speaker Boehner will say he tried too, but no one will believe him. So, your Maximum Leader has come to the conclusion that the House Leadership needs to get whatever support they can from Democrats and Republicans in that chamber and make a deal that can get passed. The continuing rancor and inaction is having too much negative impact on the US (and World) economy that getting a deal done is becoming more and more important. Uncertainty is a core problem now in all things economic. Providing even a little certainty will go a long way. Does your Maximum Leader think that the House should abandon long-term deficit & spending-reduction goals… No. They shouldn’t. But someone has to start doing something or the whole thing will go off the rails a lot faster than expected…

Oh yeah… Things will still go off the rails… But perhaps we can build a little more rail-line to try and work out our spending problems.

Your Maximum Leader needs to write more about Richard III. He has all sorts of thoughts on this whole matter, but just can’t seem to find a way to make time to write about them.

And finally… Your Maximum Leader is getting a whole bunch of pork belly in the next few days… That means he’ll be making bacon. Yum. Perhaps he’ll post some photos of the process… (Such as it is.)

Carry on.

Well, was I wrong.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was wrong. Not wrong wrong; but just wrong. Sure he knew that it was not going to be a good night for Romney when New Hampshire wasn’t close. Your Maximum Leader, optimistically, thought that New Hampshire, Virginia, Florida, Iowa and Colorado were going to break for Romney. When New Hampshire broke heavy for Obama your Maximum Leader realized that his most optimistic scenario for Romney (which still had Romney losing by the way) was not going to play out. Your Maximum Leader is a little surprised at Virginia going for Obama. Your Maximum Leader had spoken with people who are well connected with both parties and figured that the Commonwealth was going to be close (which it seems to be still) but that it would break for Romney. It didn’t.

Well… There is not much else to do on this one (save the requisite blame game and internecine warfare about who is “pure” enough to win in 2016) except to say, congratulations President Obama. Your Maximum Leader hopes the next four years are better for America than the first. (But he’s not holding his breath.)

In other election thoughts… Gay marriage measures passed everywhere they were on the ballot. That is a good thing. The Federal Government should just drop all objections and road blocks to gay marriage and we should just put this issue to bed. Your Maximum Leader still isn’t sure why the courts haven’t ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act and nullified it completely… But they haven’t.

There is only one place to put the blame for the Republican party not picking up seats in the US Senate. That place is the Tea Party movement. The Tea Party got nominated people who were just unelectable to the majority of people in their states. Your Maximum Leader firmly believes that the American people are, on the balance, of a center-right persuasion in the broadest sense. But, they don’t like extremists of either party. (Some of you out there think that Obama is a left-wing extremist; your Maximum Leader has to respectfully disagree with you and say that his is more left-center than far-left.) An opportunity to win the Senate, while remote to start with, was ruined back in the summer when electable Republicans like Dick Lugar (and Olympia Snowe) were done.

Well… Enough on this one… There will be more to come in the following days and weeks.

Carry on.

Civic Duty Done

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has voted. The line was short and moved at a good clip. The good people at the Stafford County Board of Elections seem to have things well in hand now. He hopes it continues to be so during the day.

Your Maximum Leader believes he’ll turn on the TV about 10 pm tonight and see what is going on at that point. Until then he will stay away from news sources that will do nothing but bloviate nonsense until some of the east coast states start to close…

In other news… As your Maximum Leader tweeted this morning: He is looking forward to seeing ads for breakfast cereal and boner pills reappear on TV beginning tomorrow.

Carry on.

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