Advocacy in Favour of Our Client, Belial.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is all.

Carry on.

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

We Have An Answer to My Rhetorical Question

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

A New Year’s Message

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ellipses…

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

To turn to topical news…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Wednesday Randoms

Greetings, loyal minions. You Maximum Leader has been falling down on the proverbial blogging job and not updating. (After a spate of erratic updates… If it can be called a spate…) Here are some random thoughts.

Twitter is a real hellhole. That doesn’t prevent your Maximum Leader from hanging out there. (@maximumleader, check him out!) There are a few people out there with whom your Maximum Leader likes to engage. That is the miracle of social media in general. He doesn’t leave the platform precisely because of those people that he’s “met” virtually and genuinely likes. But some days Twitter is just terrible. For example, last week when David Koch died. So many progressives/leftist/Democrats/Communists/Socialist/whatever-they-call-themselves were tripping over themselves to gleefully celebrate the death of a man. It was awful. Regardless of what you might think of someone’s politics and how they used their fortune to advance their beliefs (all within the bounds of the law and generally accepted behavior) one shouldn’t make merry at their death. Your Maximum Leader was sorely tempted to ask how they would react to a conservative/rightist/Republican/fascist/nationalist/what-ever-the-other-side-calls-themselves dancing on the grave of someone like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should she have passed. (NB: Your Maximum Leader, while not agreeing with RBG on many items, bears her no ill-will and hopes she recovers fully from her recent surgery and is able to fully return to her duties at the Court. Your Maximum Leader isn’t advocating she retire. She’ll retire when she is ready. Or she’ll never retire and die on the bench like her friend, and political opposite, the late Antonin Scalia. That is her prerogative.) Of course, some did make this observation on Twitter and your Maximum Leader did not. There is no point. You can’t stop the Twitter mob and there is very little point to trying to do so.

General update on domestic situation. Our exchange student is fitting in generally well at the Villainschloss. He is picking up chores and the routine. Your Maximum Leader is figuring out how much parentis he can exercise in the ole concept of in loco parentis. We are still working on the details of supervision. We had some missteps (in your Maximum Leader’s opinion) over how our student (we’ll call him “J”) chose to change sports teams over the weekend. J didn’t give proper notice to the coaches of both teams. Your Maximum Leader has encouraged him to take some steps today to smooth things over with the coach who’s team J departed without notice or discussion. This can be a problem at a small private school. One has to maintain good relationships all around. Communication is the key. In addition to the sports situation, your Maximum Leader is apparently the proofreader/editor of J’s essays. This is something of a surprise as your Maximum Leader has the reputation in the house of being a hardass editor and “mean” proofreader of papers. (Villainette #1 didn’t come to him for help until well into her Senior year of HS. The Wee Villain will not come to him at all. Villainette #2 is thick skinned and will sometimes ask for editing services. But her writing is clear and technical - she is studying mechanical engineering after all - and doesn’t need much editing.) Your Maximum Leader has written a few emails to J’s teachers to get guidance on what type of help he should, and should not, give J. One teacher has responded already with a number of very helpful suggestions which your Maximum Leader will implement. These include making sure J reads his essays aloud to make sure he’s gotten all his words down, using Google docs to exchange drafts, and point out problems (tense, subject/verb agreement, run-on sentences, etc.) and have him make corrections then do it again. All good common sense advice. So there is that.

Also domestically, your Maximum Leader has been spending inordinate amounts of time thinking about trains and railroads. He has spent many hours (yes, hours) watching live cams of various rail road sites. His favorites include: Strasburg RR Cam 1, Strasburg RR Cam 2, Ashland, VA CAM, and the Horseshoe Curve in Pennsylvania. He is becoming a fat, middle-aged, white, male, railfan it seems. Well… It keeps him off the streets and out of jail…

Carry on.

Happy Independence Day!

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

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

Here is the list:

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

He will expand on these point for your edification.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

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

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

For imposing taxes on us without our Consent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Independence Day fellow Americans!

Carry on.

Safe, Legal, and Rare

Greetings, loyal minions. We seem to have come a long way from the days when Democrats wanted abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare.” Haven’t we? I have contemplated writing a post on abortion for a while now. But I haven’t. It seems like this might be the time to do so in light of recently passed laws in Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, and Kansas.

For those of you who might be reading, this post will have the following form: I’ll discuss my own personal views on abortion, then I’ll discuss what my views are about abortion in America. These views are in conflict with one another, and are the cause of some intellectual distress within my own conscience.

To begin. Simply put, my own view is that abortion is the willful killing of an innocent human life and is wrong. There isn’t much subtlety to that position. It is as starkly absolute as it looks in the words on your screen right now. It is a clearly stated and forceful statement.

I wasn’t always as clear on this personally. Though raised Catholic, I went through long portions of time away from the Church. Certainly my Catholic upbringing has always influenced my thoughts on abortion, it would be an overstatement to say that my views were always in line with Catholic teachings. (Or are now…) There was a time in and around college, where my views on the subject were better described as “well, it seems wrong to me, but I just don’t really care that much.” I feel a certain amount of shame in that supreme ambivalence given the words I just typed a few short sentences ago. But that was where I was. I didn’t think about abortion much and deliberately avoided thinking about it for quite a while. But I was forced to think about it one afternoon while walking in a park with a girl.

We were friends in college. We never dated each other. It frankly never occurred to either of us that we should date each other. It was a plain old friendship in which sex rarely came up as a subject. I was dating others. She was dating others. And everyone seemed pretty cool about it. We didn’t talk much about sex at all. A rude joke here and there. Perhaps some clumsy innuendo once and a while. Innuendo that was always a little forced between us.

One day, shortly after we graduated, we were walking in a park near my house. We chatted about all the normal things we talked about. Then she stopped at a small playground in the park and sat on a swing. I sat in the swing next to her and there was silence. She didn’t look at me when she plainly stated, “I’m pregnant.” I wasn’t sure how to react. I looked at her and I’m positive my confusion in how to respond was plain on my face. She looked at me, and with tears welling up in her eyes she said, “I don’t want to be.”

The circumstances that lead her to that point are as unimportant as they are common. Not paying attention. Messing around. Accident. Knowledge of what was happening. Realization that the boyfriend is all wrong. Their relationship is all wrong. She isn’t ready. She doesn’t want to be ready. She doesn’t know exactly what to do.

So she tells me.

I was the only person she had told. That sort of surprised me. I would have figured I was down the list of people she would confide in. But I was at the top of the list. I didn’t know what to say. So she did the talking. She thought she was going to abort the baby. She wasn’t 100 percent yet, but she was 85 percent. She was telling me because she wanted me to take her and be with her and if needed stay with me a day or two after.

I admit that I am told by my friends that I am a pretty loyal friend and will do what I can to help a friend in need. My first reaction to being “asked” to help my friend get an abortion was that I would take her, and be with her, and let her stay with me after if she wanted. She seemed greatly relieved by my answer. We sat for a while, then continued on our walk in silence. We parted with kisses on the cheek, but few words. She said she would let me know.

I didn’t sleep much for the next few days. Her boyfriend didn’t know. Should he? Should he be given some say in the matter? How would he react? Shouldn’t he help her out? What about my friend’s brother with whom she was especially close? Wouldn’t he be more appropriate? After going through all the others in my mind I started to reflect on my role in all this. What was I doing? Should I counsel her to seek another choice, or at least investigate another choice? If she wanted my help and I gave it what would I be responsible for doing?

In that moment I realized I was against abortion. Why would I worry about the moral consequences of an abortion to which I was tangentially a part if the whole act wasn’t wrong? Is driving a hitman to a hit and letting them stay in your house to lay low for a few days after not morally wrong? In that moment I had terrible misgivings. I was conflicted because now I realized I didn’t want to do what I’d agreed to do. I was a wreck. And if I was a wreck, I could only imagine how my friend felt.

I don’t recall praying, or asking advice of others, or doing anything to work through my impending moral dilemma. And then the weirdest thing happened. My friend and I never spoke of it again. About a week later she gave me a call and suggested we meet for a quick dinner and a walk. I agreed. I had decided to play it by ear not bring up the subject and see what she wanted to do. We had dinner. We walked. We got ice cream. We parted company. About two weeks later she told me she was accepting a new job in Pittsburgh. She asked if I would help pack up her truck. I said yes. I helped pack her up. Her brother was there too. She told me that the boyfriend wasn’t in the picture any more. She went to Pittsburgh. We talked for a few months after, then we truly parted company. We haven’t spoken since. I heard about her for a few years through mutual friends. There was no single parenting talk. I don’t know what she did or how she did it. I don’t know if she sensed my misgivings and decided not to ask me afterall.

And that is the story of how I came to have the views on abortion that I hold. As you can read, my view crystalized pretty sharply back then. It hasn’t changed too much over time. I still think abortion is wrong because it is the killing of an innocent, defenseless, person who deserves a chance at life.

In light of this, one would think that I would applaud the recent changes to the laws of Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, and Kansas. Well… That is where I run into problems.

I realize that we live in a constitutional republic. I also want the maximum amount of liberty possible under that government. I am suspicious of government and am often suspicious of the motives of others. I also realize that though I believe what I believe about abortion strongly, I can’t help but also believe that others don’t share my beliefs in this matter.

One would think that I wouldn’t have a problem with abortion in the public sphere. If I believe in liberty, and the sacrosanct nature of the individual as an individual entitled to the protection of and from the state, then I should support abortion rights. I get hung up on the fact that there are two people in this equation and how should they be treated. How, in fact, should they be treated? Does a woman have the same, more, or equal rights as a baby within her?

At this point I find myself falling into a legalist mindset, or perhaps it is a type of etymological/verbal sophistry. I want to find terms from which the argument can flow. This is likely some sort of latent attempt at Socratic reasoning or just some sort of self-justification to assuage a guilty conscience.

I can tell you where this mindset on the issue of abortion started in my brain. College, some time in early 1988. I went to a fascinating (and horrifying) debate. The debate was between a Philosophy professor at my school and a visiting Philosophy professor. It was a dispassionate and intellectual exchange. No heated words. No protesting. No finger pointing. It was just two smart people exchanging thoughtful arguments on a hotly debated issue. The professor from my school set out the “Pro-life” position. It was the visiting professor that was most memorable to me however. She set out her “Pro-choice” position. I was young and dull-witted and didn’t see where she was going when she started off. She started with cognitive abilities of various apes. Then got into human language and reason. Then proceeded into conscious thought and ability to express complex abstract ideas. Before I realized it, she had set up an argument in which she had gotten many of us to accept the position that in order to be fully human one had to have some apprehension of language and reason in order to be fully human. Then next thing you know, she is arguing that one should be able to commit infanticide of children up to about 6 months old because prior to that point they weren’t fully human and thus not entitled to full protection of the state.

In retrospect, it is interesting that back in 1988 a rational, and horrifying, intellectual debate suggesting infanticide could be viewed as an academic exercise that was dismissed by everyone who heard it as “going too far to make a point.” Now in 2019 there were bills being introduced in my state legislature that wanted to codify roughly the same point. And the Governor of my Commonwealth went on radio and seemed to advocate for the very position that was seen as “too much” 30 years before.

So people have differing opinions on abortion and it seems to be advantageous to find some consensus under which we can all live. But the problem is in the definition of terms that no one can agree upon. If that fertilized egg has become a human, then it is entitled to the protection of the state. If that fertilized egg is just a “fetus,” or an “organism,” or a “parasite,” or a “clump of cells,” then it seems pretty clear that it isn’t a person entitled to the protection of the state.

For many years, I (and others) wanted to try and define “viability.” If we could decide when that “pre-human” became viable outside the womb then we could establish a point at which one could say “A-ha! The pre-human is now fully human and shouldn’t be aborted as it is a person with rights and entitled to the protection of the state.” Viability was a thing I really tried to figure out with an earnestness that amuses my more cynical self today. Do you want to know what I came up with? I figured out that with technology and medical advances “viability” doesn’t mean anything. I would almost be willing to wager that in my lifetime (I’m 50 now) we will have artificial wombs into which we can put fertilized eggs and have them develop until they are grown into babies ready to be born in the traditionally understood sense. I am certainly willing to say that the point during a pregnancy that a baby becomes viable outside the womb keeps getting pushed closer and closer to the time of conception. So viability is a moving, and thus meaningless, target.

The current fashion of law seems to be the “heartbeat” standard. When the “pre-human” has a heartbeat it changes into a human and is entitled to the protection of the state. A fetal heartbeat can start after about 4 weeks. As is often said in the news, the fetal heartbeat can begin before most women know they are even pregnant. The upstart of this argument is that a woman needs time to learn she is pregnant so that she can decide if she wants an abortion. There is something in me that wants to see both sides of this argument. If you want to allow abortions, you need to allow a woman sufficient time to realize she is pregnant. But if you want to make sure you are protecting innocent life, then the heartbeat seems like an objective and observable milestone at which one can set a benchmark. I am not sure if the heartbeat is the benchmark I would set, but I fully recognize that any benchmark at all is arbitrary.

Do I support the “heartbeat” laws? I’m not sure. I certainly don’t support unlimited abortion on demand. I am left wondering where did “safe, legal, and rare” go? I also would like to know where the rape, incest, and life of the mother exceptions went.

So that I am clear, I realize that, intellectually, how a baby was conceived shouldn’t affect the baby’s legal status as a person with rights. But I freely admit I have a real problem making a woman (or young girl) carry a child to term that was conceived by rape or incest. I can’t do it. It seems wrong to even consider it in fact. Forcing a woman to bear a child that will end up killing her also seems too far to go for me. So removing the exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother seems to be going too far for me in our society. (NB: Another dear college friend of mine, Ashley, was faced with the choice of having a baby or taking cancer treatments. She chose to have the baby and delay cancer treatments. She died shortly after delivering her son. I don’t know how I would have dealt with my wife having to make that choice. I’m glad I never had to. But I do know that I pray for Ashley, and her surviving family, all the time.)

I don’t pretend to have answers for society at large in this. I know that there is a point after which abortion should be prohibited. I just can’t articulate in a meaningful way where that point is that doesn’t seem completely arbitrary and thus irrational.

Broadly speaking, I would like to prevent pregnancy so that abortion isn’t the primary focus of our arguing. To that end, I wouldn’t mind if birth control became more widely available. I know some of you out there are saying to yourselves, “What? As if it isn’t already widely available.” I know what you are saying, but making some birth control pills over-the-counter wouldn’t upset me in the least. So many places give condoms away it amazes me that people buy them. And “day after” pills exist in this morally gray area that I don’t contemplate much. Mostly out of a selfish desire to leave a morally gray area for me to hide my conscience within like an ashamed shadow.

I wish that we, as a society, on this issue could get a commission together of intelligent and rational people on both sides and lock them in a comfortable, isolated, hotel somewhere and have them come up with a compromise that everyone hates but agrees to live with for the sake of civility towards one another. Sadly, civility isn’t valued and both sides prefer becoming more intractable in the hopes of “winning” the argument once and for all. But this is one of those issues for which there is no real winning at all.

Carry on.

Musings on Thomas Hobbes 431st Birthday.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader raised a glass of whisky this past Friday (April 5th) and toasted Thomas Hobbes. Thomas Hobbes is on a very short list of political philosophers that your Maximum Leader greatly admires. Thomas Hobbes. Michael Oakeshott. Edmund Burke. Those are the big three…

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader wrote recently about how to classify Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He was using old Cold War Soviet terms for his classification. So he had the Soviet Union on his mind. Bringing the Soviet Union more to the forefront of his mind was his watching (probably for the 100th time) “The Death of Stalin.” It happened to be on cable on Friday night. He caught it about 15 minutes in…

NB: Your Maximum Leader loves (LURVES!) “The Death of Stalin.” It is funny. It is intelligent. It is so well acted and well written and well directed. He rented it to watch on a flight to California last year. He saw it and knew he had to own it. He bought it upon landing and watched it three more times that weekend. He’s watched it a bunch since. In the past five years there have been two films that your Maximum Leader has found rewatchable over and over again. They are “Stalin” and “Deadpool.”

So, moving along…

Your Maximum Leader had been thinking about nomenklatura. Then he had been watching the comic antics of the Soviet Politburo jockeying for power in 1953. Then his mind wandered in a bourbon infused fog. At that point he had something of a revelation. And Hobbes has something to do with it too…

The revelation was that many liberals of today genuinely believe that a Soviet/Socialist/Communist political system is a good thing. Now you are saying to yourself, “Self, how it is that my Maximum Leader is just realising this? Is he stupid?” Well, not exactly. You see, intellectually speaking your Maximum Leader has known that many liberals think this way. But there was something of a series of subtle connections that were made in that fog that made things clearer.

You see, your Maximum Leader, in his heart shares a belief espoused by ole Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes famously wrote that in a state of nature life was a war of all against all. His famous sound bite was that life in such a condition was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Now, Hobbes’s view of humanity is more nuanced than this. You can pick up his writings and read a few hundred pages and figure this out for yourself. But here is the rub. Ultimately Hobbes, and your Maximum Leader, believed that human nature is inherently egoistic. We want what we want. We want to do what we want to do. If we think we can get away with something to our advantage, without fear of reprisal, we will do it. To use religious terminology (because in this the religious and political are closely intertwined), man’s nature is fallen. As a being with a fallen nature, we need to be constrained. Constrained, in Hobbes’ mind, by an autocratic state. (At least this the the broad theme of Leviathan.) Please keep this in your mind…

Of course, on the other side of this equation (as it were) are those who prefer the state of nature described by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Man was a perfectible, noble, creature. The nature of man was not fallen, or sinful, or bad. Mankind was corrupted by society, but society could be reformed and likewise man will be reformed as a result. Of course, your Maximum Leader is oversimplifying here, but bear with him.

So, broadly speaking, Your Maximum Leader thinks we can all agree that the best (theoretical) type of government to live under would be an autocracy ruled over by a wise, just, and benevolent autocrat. The Philosopher-King of Plato’s musings as it were. A good, wise, just, and benevolent autocrat has the power to “get things done” as well as the restraint to “keep from going too far.” Just laws, just taxes, and justice in general would flow quickly and efficiently from the Philosopher-King at the head of such a state. Things would be good…

Of course, the problem with autocracies is that you aren’t always guaranteed a good autocrat. The odds of a bad one are better than the odds of a good one. This is especially true if you believe, as your Maximum Leader and Hobbes do, in the not-so-good nature of man. But let’s say, you fall more under the Rousseauian theory of mankind. Well, even then you know that you are bound to get a bad egg from time to time. No matter how well you educate and train an autocrat, sometimes you are going to get a bad one. But if you give autocratic power to a bunch of perfectible people. People who are well-trained, well-experienced, and well-educated. Well then, that is a different story…

This is the root of the liberal’s love of technocracy. If mankind is perfectible and generally good, if you give power to right group of technocrats you will get a good outcome. If it doesn’t work out, it is because the “true formula” hasn’t really been tried. Ah… The ole “true socialism has never been tried trope!” Yes. Of course it all comes back to a fervent starting principal. If man is good it is all bound to work out! We just have had the wrong people in place…

Your Maximum Leader, in thinking all this, was musing on a column that Paul Krugman wrote some years ago (and he can’t find on the Google with ease and has given up with trying to link it) in which Krugman waxed admiration on the Chinese Communist government. In his musings, your Maximum Leader thought to himself that if you could look past the human rights abuses, the lack of personal freedoms, the rampant corruption, and the cronyism, there is a lot to like with the style of Chinese Communist rule from Deng Ziaoping through Hu Jintao. The Chinese Communist Politburo was populated by well-educated, experienced technocrats. These technocrats had well-constructed plans for moving their country ahead. They executed those plans (without any hindrance to their power). And presto-chango! China is the second greatest power in the world (and some could argue they are tied for the greatest power in the world). The Chinese Communist leaders are like half a loaf of bread in the argument about Socialism. They get so much right that they are admired, but there is that unsightly side. (All that lack of human rights, corruption, etc. etc.) It is like they are a beta version that just needs some more work.

You see, your Maximum Leader never really “saw” this aspect of how many liberals choose to look at socialism. He couldn’t get past his starting point, namely that humanity is not inherently good or truly perfectible. If you can’t get past that point, you’ll never get to where they are… Of course, your Maximum Leader likes freedom and liberty. He likes republican (truly little “r” republican) government. He likes restraint on government power. He likes it all because he doesn’t fully trust other people’s nature. We (humanity/mankind if you like) constrain our nature within society. We set up institutions and rules to constrain ourselves and others. It makes life better when we have boundaries and constrains, but also have the liberty to act as our own free-will agents.

It is possible that, at some point in the growing ever more distant past, he had this revelation before. But it seemed pretty enlightening the other night. It is possible that he’s never really tried to understand the whole “true Socialism” or “true Communism” hasn’t been tried argument. It’s never been tried, because it isn’t possible for it to be tried. If the nature of man is not predisposed towards it working, true Socialism/Communism just can’t ever work. Of course, many people don’t think as I do. So there is that.

Your Maximum Leader isn’t going to round them up and send them out for re-education or anything…

Carry on.

Classifications

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was musing the other day about Democratic Congressman and Wunderkinder Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He wasn’t just musing about her lovely complexion, ample bosom, but over-large teeth either. He was thinking about her as a political phenomena of our day. He wondered how, other than her general good looks - which don’t hurt when gaining celebrity, she became such a spokesman for the Democratic Party. Here a 29 years old woman, elected by about 100,000 voters in liberal Brooklyn, New York, seems to have become one of the standard bearers for her party. All that and she is a spokesman for what your Maximum Leader thinks of as the far left-wing element of her party.

Then he started to think back to his youth during the bad ole days of the Cold War. Then something came to him. Was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez an apparatchik or a nomenklatura? He posted this, mostly rhetorical, question on the ole Tweety-box. (Your Maximum Leader’s handle by the by is @maximumleader.) One of your Maximum Leader’s tweeps (@arethusaf) suggested that she wasn’t detail oriented enough to be an apparatchik, and that she was certainly now, by virtue of her position, a nomenklatura.

NB: Any of you out there who might stumble across this post would likely know what apparatchiks and nomenklatura are. But in case you don’t here are the wiki definitions. Apparatchik. Nomenklatura. They will suit our purposes here tonight.

So back to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Apparatchik or nomenklatura. Your Maximum Leader agrees with Arethusa that by virtue of her position in Congress she is certainly a member of the Democratic nomenklatura. But she evinces, in your Maximum Leader’s eyes, many of the qualities of an apparatchik. He says this because she is a good reciter of the “party line.” She knows all the lines, everything she should say about all the hot-button issues for the Democratic constituency. You know them: the environment, health care, the environment some more, equal justice, equal pay, the environment even more, and a highly idealised and mostly imagined democratic-socialism of the Nordic type. She knows what to say on these subjects, how to say it, and more importantly how to communicate in Tweet-length soundbites.

NB: Your Maximum Leader wishes we would get legit soundbites. Remember them? People of a certain age remember lamenting the popularisation of the soundbite. Oh how, as a younger man, your Maximum Leader mused “What happened to the American attention span? When did we stop being able to listen to a person for more than 3 minutes? When did we lose the ability to concentrate for over 15 minutes at a time? Why must we be subjected to a 2-3 minute soundbite that doesn’t really give us any information or nuance?” The soundbite was the king of newsworthy statements in the late 80’s and 90’s. Now we don’t even get the soundbite. It is all tweet-length nowadays. If you are lucky you get the Twitter version of the soundbite - the thread… Pretty soon we’ll only understand emojis.

Actually, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ability to tweet is likely as responsible for her meteoric rise in her party as much as her beating Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary in her district (NY - 14). She is a mirror image of our President when it comes to tweeting. To make an old Dungeons & Dragons analogy, Ocasio-Cortez is a Paladin on the Twitter and Donald Trump is the Anti-Paladin on the Twitter. She is on-point and always saying exactly what you think she will (if you are into predicting these things). He is wild and untamed and all over the place. They both are happy to bend the truth while tweeting, but Ocasio-Cortez’s “facts” are generally more popular than Trumps and she is largely immune (in the mainstream) from actual fact-checking. Unlike the President who is oft (and rightfully) fact-checked and exposed as a liar (which he is).

Anyhooo… Back to the classification…

Your Maximum Leader thinks that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a failed apparatchik that has stumbled into the nomenklatura by a happy confluence of events (not the least of which was the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States).

NB: Your Maximum Leader can’t imagine that he’s going to have to spend the rest of his life looking at Trump’s ugly mug on a placemat depicting all the Presidents of the United States. Your Maximum Leader might have to swear off Presidential placemats in favor of Civil War generals, the States, or world flags placemats.

Ocasio-Cortez isn’t a bureaucratic functionary. She doesn’t have the talent for details (at least not that your Maximum Leader can observe). But she knows the party line, and that will get her far. It already has gotten her far. Your Maximum Leader wagers that she will serve in Congress long enough to receive a full pension. Ocasio-Cortez will likely be with us (at least those of us who follow politics to some degree) for some time. Your Maximum Leader hopes she’ll at least be entertaining for some of that time. He does not wish, however, that she will be particularly successful and implementing that which she so easily professes on the Twitter.

Carry on.

“Presidents Day” +1

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Smollett

Greetings, loyal minions. This whole Jussie Smollett situation should fill you with the wide range of emotions and thoughts. To recap: Jussie Smollett, a gay, black actor, claimed to have been assaulted in Chicago by two men. During the assault he had a noose thrown around his neck, a liquid poured on him, and was beaten. The men, Smollett claimed, were wearing “Make American Great Again” caps. In the ensuing days and weeks (it seems like weeks - but time has taken on a peculiar quality since 2017 it seems) two camps appeared. The first camp, mostly populated by liberals/progressives, stood by Smollett and decried how racism and racial hatred and racially-based hate crimes were a symptom of “Donald Trump’s America.” The second camp, mostly populated by conservatives/right-wingers, stood back and said “something doesn’t seem right with this story.”

As it seems to be turning out, there is something wrong with the story and those of the second camp I just described seem to be justified. According to news reports coming out of the Chicago Police Department, the two (black) men (immigrants from Nigeria it seems) were paid by Smollett to assault him. The hired assailants bought rope and plain red hats to carry out the staged attack. Smollett is, apparently, sticking by the story that he’s maintained publicly (including in an interview with Robin Roberts on ABC). Slowly the facts of the case seem to be going is a much different direction.

I am much more active on the Twitter than here. (@maximumleader) But I steered away from this story. I was shocked when it was first reported. I continue to be horrified by the racially charged nature of so many crimes and incidents in America over the past two years. It seemed plausible that such an assault could have happened. But as the facts started to ebb out I started to be sceptical. The attackers were allegedly black men. It seemed a little implausible that there would be two black Trump supporters in Chicago looking to assault another black man. Then there was the absence of CCTV footage. There were questions about the police getting to examine Smollett’s cell phone. There were questions… Now it seems like it was all a terrible contrivance.

The real tragedy here is that this whole incident further widens the already widening chasms between the various factions within America. Liberals are rending their shirts and covering themselves with ash while saying how this will affect how society will view future (and real) claims of racist attacks. And they are right to do so. A false claim, and even worse - a staged incident - does, I believe, cause people to be more cautious and sceptical of future claims by future victims. It is a society-wide expansion of the boy who cried wolf - but writ over a whole class of crimes and victims. Conservatives on the other hand are pointing fingers at liberals and especially the media and cheering themselves for being vindicated. They, rightly, claim that the whole incident was never investigated seriously when the claims were first made. The media believed because they wanted to believe because it fit the narrative they want to advance. I believe that this is also pretty true. If you are inclined to look for evidence of racism and racial hatred everywhere you aren’t going to question a big story like this one when it comes along.

All in all, I’m willing to go with the pox on both your houses. Our age of social media and instant commentary on anything has lead us to become reflexively partisan on just about any issue. It also give everyone the ability to comment in real time on anything. There is no time to gather facts. (NB: as if facts matter. Echo chambers of social media don’t appreciate facts that don’t fit the narrative. It is appearances that matter.) There is no time, and frankly no desire, to learn the facts and use them to create an intelligent opinion. As a result, the echo chambers resound. The divides harden. The sides grow further apart.

I don’t mind disagreement. But I want to encourage discussion of a serious sort. That being said, our society doesn’t value serious discussion and calm acceptance of differences. So the whole Smollett thing will just go down as another hoax that sets to wear down the bonds of civil society.

Carry on.

My Poor Commonwealth

Greetings, loyal minions.

Well, well, well. The regularly uninteresting political situation in my home, the Commonwealth of Virginia, has become rather noteworthy of late. Unless you’ve lived under a rock, or just ignored politics generally, you have likely heard about what has happened recently in Richmond. Allow me to summarize:

1) Governor Ralph Northam’s medical school yearbook has part of a page dedicated to him that shows a man in blackface and another in a KKK outfit. The Governor may or may not be in the photo. And he may or may not have been responsible for selecting the photo to be put in the yearbook.

2) Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax has been accused by two women of sexual assault. One alleges she was assaulted during the Democratic National Convention in 2004. The other alleges she was assaulted while she and Fairfax were students at Duke University.

3) Attorney General Mark Herring has admitted that he wore makeup to darken his skin (but apparently not full-out blackface) during a his time at the University of Virginia.

4) State Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment edited the Virginia Military Institute’s (VMI) yearbook in 1968. A yearbook that is filled with racist photos and statements.

That is the shortened jist of what has come out. That is also the order in which this news was made public. Except for the second accuser coming forward about Justin Fairfax, that happened after the Tommy Norment story broke. The Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General are all Democrats. Senator Norment is a Republican.

In the immediate aftermath of learning about the Governor’s yearbook page (apparently “leaked” to a right-wing web site in the aftermath of a stunningly horrifying interview by the Governor in which he seemed to advocate infanticide) there were - and one supposes there remain - widespread calls for the Governor to resign. The Governor issued a video statement in which he expressed regret over the yearbook. Then a day after his statement of regret, the Governor held a press conference that was best described as somewhat surreal in which he denied that the was in the photo, didn’t know how the photo got there, admitted to dressing like Michael Jackson at another time, and nearly demonstrated his moonwalking skills. The Governor has since given another television interview in which he stated that black Africans were first bought to Virginia as indentured servants, not slaves. (NB: It has been a very very long time since I’ve read/studied this so I may be wrong and/or the scholarship may have changed in the intervening decades; but the Governor may not be technically wrong on this - though he should have just learned a lesson from all his other missteps and just shut the hell up about slavery. As I recall, among the first Africans brought to Jamestown some may have been given indenture papers. But this practice was short-lived at best and slavery came to Virginia shortly after Jamestown was founded. Again, my memory is hazy and I am open to being wrong on this point. More broadly speaking - it doesn’t matter one iota in the grand scheme - except to pedantic history nerds. Slaves came. If one is trying to be sensitive to over 400 years of slavery, racism, and inequality you ought not to try to score pedantic points.) So that is where the Governor is…

The Lt. Governor is calling for investigations into the allegations. Allegations he flatly denies. There have been calls for his resignation as well.

The Attorney General has seemed to benefit from all the other news stories as he now seems to be laying low and hoping it all blows past.

Senator Norment, too, is laying low and hoping it all blows past.

In my opinion, laying low and hoping it all blows past is the right strategery (as it were) for everyone, except Mr. Fairfax.

In the cases of Governor Northam, Attorney General Herring, and Senator Norment, all these incidents were decades ago. In my opinion, which as we all know is not worth a hill of beans in this crazy world, all three of these men have a long record of associations and public service that do not show signs of persistent or lingering racism. Some may choose to point out that a campaign flyer for the (eventually winning) Democratic ticket that was circulated in Southwestern Virginia only showed Mr. Northam and Mr. Herring, both of whom are white. It conspicuously omitted Mr. Fairfax who is black. It was said at the time that this was to help the ticket in an area of the state where it was believed that some whites would not vote for a black man. It is my belief that someone responsible for the printing of that flyer did make that calculation. I don’t believe that Mr. Northam, Herring, or Fairfax had any personal involvment with it. And it is interesting to note that Mr. Norment, while a student at VMI, advocated the full integration of VMI - an unpopular stance even in 1968. So, once again, I feel you have a long public record for these three men that doesn’t support they are racists. I don’t feel that this long record is outweighed by self-evidently awful behavior decades ago. Others may disagree.

I suppose my position comes down to when is long enough? If Governor Northam, while he was a state senator, went to a party in blackface I would sing a different tune. I suppose I might sing a different tune if he did so during his time as a doctor in private practice. And while I fully admit that a man in medical school should know better, it was a long time ago and he doesn’t seem to be “that guy” any more. This position also goes for Herring and Norment.

This is an unsatisfying position for many true believers out there. Both of the Left and the Right. But it is where I am on this.

Sadly, the allegations made against Mr. Fairfax are more troubling and may require his resignation. I say may because they are, at this point, allegations. Nothing is proven to any threshold of evidence. There does need to be an investigation. But even that is troubling. The General Assembly of Virginia isn’t the type of body that does investigations. Should the Attorney General’s Office do an investigation? Should it be left to the authorities in Massachusetts (site of the Democratic Convention) or North Carolina (for Duke)? I don’t have an answer for that. My inclination would be for the General Assembly to set up a special commission of Senators and Delegates (in equal number from both parties) with the authority to hire investigator - or use State Police investigators - to conduct an official inquiry. But I’ll be honest, I’ll have to re-read the State Constitution because I’m not sure the General Assembly even has the authority to do this. (NB: They probably do in that they can make all sorts of rules for their own behavior. But it is possible that they may have to write a special law to do this, and the legislature is part-time and their session is winding down. To make a law would be an extraordinary task that might require the Governor to sign off on it - which would be awkward to say the least.)

If there is an investigation, what should be the threshold for action? If the Kavanaugh Hearings over the summer show us anything in this matter they show that there is no level of evidence with a widespread acceptance for action. Beyond a reasonable doubt, the threshold for criminal convictions, seems too high. Clear and convincing evidence may also be too high. But is a basic preponderance of evidence too low? (NB: For clarity, beyond a reasonable doubt is 99% sure, clear and convincing is 75% sure, preponderance is 51% sure.) For myself, I think that if you are going to work to get an elected official ousted from his position for things done while not in office you probably need to be at least 75% sure.

For those out there that think impeachment of one (or all) of the three top elected officials is the way to go, that door should be closed. Closed for two reasons. The Constitution of Virginia clearly defines impeachable offenses and they all involve actions taken while in office. Secondly, a Republican majority legislature is not inclined, for obvious political reasons, to go down that path.

So what then? Well… I think that Northam weathers the storm but is a shadow of what he could have been in the last two years of his term. Since Governors in Virginia cannot serve consecutive terms and Northam never seemed to aspire to other offices in Virginia or with the Federal Government, he could just wait it out. He will likely serve out his remaining two years and retire from office and return to the (beautiful) Eastern Shore of Virginia and go back to private medical practice.

Fairfax and Herring are the wild cards here. Both men want to be Governor. In fact, Herring “waited” last time to let Northam run for Governor while he ran for a second term as Attorney General. Fairfax is also an ambitious man. It looked like he was going to give Herring his “turn” to run for Governor, then run himself. I don’t know what happens to either of them now. I don’t see how either man fends off any sort of primary challenge from another Democrat. That is going to be the more interesting thing to look at as time passes.

All in all, I’m sad for my state. This is the type of news no one wants…

Carry on.

George H.W. Bush, RIP

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that former President George H.W. Bush has died at his home in Houston. Your Maximum Leader suspected that President Bush, the Elder, would not long survive after the death of his beloved wife, Barbara. Your Maximum Leader can hardly imagine the grief consuming the close-knit Bush family for having lost their Matriarch and Patriarch in the same year. He sends his deepest condolences out to the Bush family.

Of course, this is a blog and don’t bloggers find a way to make everything all about themselves? So how can your Maximum Leader make this about him. Well… Read on…

Your Maximum Leader is of an age that came to be politically aware during the Reagan years. Your Maximum Leader was a Reagan-loving, National Review reading, conservative in the 1980s. All these things are still true today, but what that appellation means now is, he thinks, up for some debate in the current political climate. Back in the 80’s your Maximum Leader viewed Bush the Elder as a good, decent, distinguished, and eminently qualified man to be Vice-President to Ronald Reagan. He was a bridge to the broad swath of the Republican party (and some Democrats) that weren’t conservative Republicans. In 1988, your Maximum Leader thought it was G.H.W. Bush’s “turn” and he supported Bush for President in 1988. But your Maximum Leader was a bit of a snot back then and when it came time for Bush to run for re-election, your Maximum Leader briefly supported Patrick Buchanan as a primary opponent to President Bush. Your Maximum Leader wanted someone more “conservative.” It wasn’t that Bush wasn’t a great chief executive, he was. But your Maximum Leader wanted more Reagan. Of course, when the President soundly trounced Buchanan in the primaries, your Maximum Leader happily supported the President in his unsuccessful re-election bid.

Well, time has caused your Maximum Leader to think more and more favourably of George H.W. Bush. Not just think of him more favourably as a person (that wasn’t possible, George H.W. Bush is likely one of the best people to ever serve our Nation as President). He’s come to regard Bush as a better President as time moves on. President Bush (41) was the right man for the time he was elected. His practical nature. His good humour. His experience. His vision. And his natural restraint all were better suited to the job of President than your Maximum Leader thought at the time. Your Maximum Leader thinks that it is quite possible that Bush 41 will continue to grow in his esteem as time progresses. Indeed, your Maximum Leader wishes we had more men of George Herbert Walker Bush’s character and temperament willing to run and serve as President. Our nation is better off in every way for electing leaders like George Bush. He hopes we are soon gifted with another man or woman similar to serve in our highest office.

On a more personal note, your Maximum Leader has shaken the hand of four of our Nation’s Presidents in his life. He exchanged pleasantries with three of them. Your Maximum Leader shook Gerald Ford’s hand in a rope line once. He shook the hand of and spoke (with a group of others) with Richard Nixon. Of course, he has already recounted his meeting with Ronald Reagan. (More thoughts on Reagan’s funeral here.) Your Maximum Leader happened to be in a few places in 1988 and 1989 where he was able to shake hands and talk (briefly) with Vice-President then President Bush 41. There were a few campaign events in Virginia and DC where your Maximum Leader knew some people that could get him close to the Vice-President. Hands were shook. Words exchanged. Then there were a few rope lines and a receiving line in 1989. In every encounter Bush the Elder seemed to be kind, engaged, and considerate.

A surprising side note to these encounters came every Christmas from 1989 to 1992, when your Maximum Leader received an official White House Christmas Card from the Bushes.

So there you go, your Maximum Leader made it all about him…

George Herbert Walker Bush - Husband, Father, Grandfather, Great Grandfather, War Hero, and President.

Gus am bris an latha agus an teich na sgailean.

Carry on.

Well, That Didn’t Go As Expected

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is surprised. He wasn’t sure what to expect last night, but he didn’t anticipate what happened. He didn’t think the Democrats would take the Senate, but he also didn’t foresee the Republicans doing as well as they did. (Rick Scott knocking off Bill Nelson? Didn’t see that coming.) He thought the Democrats had a better than even chance at taking the House. Which they narrowly appear to have done. The outcome of Governor’s races, to the extent we know them, are also more positive for Republicans than your Maximum Leader expected.

If there are takeaways from this election for your Maximum Leader they are:

1 ) Contest every seat available. This has been a position of your Maximum Leader for many years. If you don’t field a candidate, you can’t win a seat. Democrats fielded many more candidates and contested more seats. That helped set the table for a House win.

2 ) Don’t fight extreme policies with other extreme policies. If you only choice on immigration is between “build a wall” and “abolish ICE,” people will choose on self-interest. Democrats allowed this issue, as an example, to be framed by Republicans, and they paid for it.

Those are the big two. Of course, every political thought your Maximum Leader has had for the past 2 years has been wrong. So what does he know…

Carry on.

Random Thoughts This Election Day

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader did his civic duty today and voted. He didn’t vote at the crack of dawn as is his habit. He voted a little later (before lunch). Normally his ballot is one of the first 100 or so in the counting machine. In your Maximum Leader’s county there is a tally displayed on the counting machine that ticks up by one every time a ballot is entered into it. It is always interesting to compare the number he gets on his little ticket to the number on the counting machine. (One confirms one’s identity and then is given a ticket that is exchanged for a ballot.) In most years when your Maximum Leader exercises his franchise the ticket number and the counting machine number are within a digit or two of each other. Normally, those numbers are under 100. Today, around 10:45 am your Maximum Leader’s counting machine number was 677.

That number of 677 caused your Maximum Leader to think. As he remembered, in the elections last year (state and local elections) there were a total of about 1,300 votes cast. So he asked a poll worker he knows and said that turnout seems to be higher than normal non-Presidential years. The poll worker confirmed that if the trends continued today, this would look more like a Presidential election year than a standard mid-term.

(NB: If there are any Democrats reading this, don’t get your hopes up. Your Maximum Leader’s precinct is reliably and heavily Republican.)

So, anecdotally, this is shaping up to be a very atypical mid-term election year…

Then again… For the past 4 years or so everything in our politics has been atypical. And in addition to being atypical, he would further characterize our politics as “bad.”

Now your Maximum Leader is not without historical perspective in this. He knows how vicious politics were in the Age of Jackson. And how brutal they were leading up to the Civil War. I don’t know that we are approaching a Civil War (though there are a disturbing number of people on both sides of the aisle that seem to be predicting - and some welcoming - another Civil War). But we are probably in a period that is just as bad as the time of Andrew Jackson. It may seem worse because of how media (the news, newspapers, social media - literally all of it “media”) seems to amplify everything political. But there is a disturbing trend towards tribalism and incivility.

On your Maximum Leader’s Twitter feed (@MaximumLeader) he has pinned Tweet. It reads: “Civility is the spanx holding in the barbarism of humanity.” That was true in January 2016, and more true today. American society, at least as it is being portrayed in the broad media, is growing less civil. Good manners and politeness don’t seem to be the order of the day. It is important that you harangue public figures as they dine, or walk the streets. Resistance is a full-time occupation. That is really too bad. Perhaps it is better to talk and try to understand people before you write them off as incorrigible. There are some incorrigibles out there. You can’t reason with them or talk to them. They need to be shunned. Don’t engage. Ignore. Isolate. But it is more dramatic to engage and make a scene. Show that you are resisting.

Was it Winston Churchill who said that a fanatic is someone who’ll not change there mind and won’t change the subject? Your Maximum Leader thinks so. He also thinks more and more people are happy to be fanatics.

But this post was billed as “random thoughts.” What other thoughts are going through your Maximum Leader’s mind that are not political? Well a bunch. Here are some:

1) Should he make a seafood chowder for dinner Friday night? He made one about 10 days ago and it was great. He’s thought of improvements he could make on his approach and thinks he needs to implement them.

2) Would vampires be affected by tattoos of crosses/crucifixes on the flesh of a potential victim? This one has been on his mind since Halloween and his Universal Monsters movie marathon.

3) Speaking of Universal Monsters… Someone at that studio needs to come up with a single unified grand plan to revitalize that fictional milieu (The Dark Universe) - if the studio is actually considering doing so. They need to focus on a single character or group of characters, that are not the monsters, to act as the focal point of the films…

4) Your Maximum Leader really used to dislike (nay - actively hate) chicken pot pie growing up. But he really really loves it now. Mrs. Villain made one last night and your Maximum Leader devoured it.

5) Will there ever be justice for Jamal Khashoggi? Well, not justice for Mr. Khashoggi. No justice but divine mercy can be given to him now. But will those responsible for his brutal murder ever be brought to temporal justice? By this your Maximum Leader doesn’t mean only those that carried out the grisly crime. But will the man apparently ultimately responsible, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, ever be brought to justice. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t think so…

6) When will your Maximum Leader get the time to spend a day watching orangutans in the zoo?

7) How much longer will your Maximum Leader’s phone battery (and backup battery) hold out on his iPhone 6? How long before he has to get a new phone?

8 ) When will the next season of “Norsemen” come out on Netflix?

9) Speaking of Norsemen… Your Maximum Leader believes that “American Gods” may have supplanted “Shogun” as his favorite work of general (popular) fiction. He’s now read AG at least 3 times (perhaps 4). He can’t remember how many times he’s read “Shogun.” But it has been a lot. He finds he can’t recall many parts until he is reading them again and has an, “Oh, I remember this now.” moment.

10) Your Maximum Leader needs to renew his passport so that he can: A) visit Venice before it is swallowed by the Adriatic; B) visit Iceland. Those are the two foreign places at the top of his list right now. He thinks he’s going to have to go to Iceland twice. Once in the summer and once in the winter. That way he can see all the things he wants to. (Some things - like certain waterfalls and trails - are only accessible during the summer. Others - like the Northern Lights - are only in the winter.)

That is about all from here. Your Maximum Leader will monitor election results and wonder about the future of our Republic.

Carry on.

A Link for your Edification

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

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

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

Carry on.

    About Naked Villainy

    • maxldr

    Villainous
    Contacts

    • E-mail your villainous leader:
      "maxldr-blog"-at-yahoo-dot-com or
      "maximumleader"-at-nakedvillainy-dot-com

    • Follow us on Twitter:
      at-maximumleader

    • No really follow on
      Twitter. I tweet a lot.

Naked Villainy… Enema of the State.

    Villainous Commerce

    Villainous Sponsors

      • Get your link here.

      Villainous Search