A Few Thoughts, June 23, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Bleh.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader had three drafts of posts that he just can’t seem to finish. Two are fiction and the stories don’t go anywhere. The third one are more musings about the virus and the economy. He may try to finish that one off during the weekend.

But, he is writing this because it is just a shit week. Work hasn’t been bad. In fact, your Maximum Leader is glad to be occupied. But on so many other fronts it has been crap. Your Maximum Leader’s father has been in the hospital, home, then hospital, then rehab center, then hospital, now back at rehab center over the past two weeks. It is frustrating. Not as frustrating to him as to others actually. But it is not fun. Then a very close friend has broken his ankle and has to have emergency surgery tomorrow to insert screws into this ankle. He is panicking about the surgery. He is quite fearful of every aspect of the procedure. This too is not fun. And then there is the general stir-craziness going around the Villainschloss.

Your Maximum Leader would say that this would be a good weekend to get a haircut, go to confession, and then get to Mass on Saturday AND Sunday in the hopes that a little religion would help put him in a better frame of mind. But given the situation…

He might try to read some to distract himself.

Carry on.

Sunday Potpourri

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, despite the flu fears, ventured from the Villainschloss today. He traveled to Charlottesville, VA and visited Monticello. As you all are no doubt aware, Monticello is the ingenious home of Thomas Jefferson. If he had not called in some favors and gotten a special tour of the house (along with a trip to the upper floors and the Dome Room) he might have opted to stay at home and not sojourn amongst his fellow citizens and expose himself (and his family) to the flu. For what it is worth, he didn’t touch much of anything. He washed his hands as often as it was feasible. And once the visit to Monticello was done, he proceeded directly back to the Villainschloss.

Your Maximum Leader really likes Monticello. You wouldn’t have guessed it because he hasn’t visited there in 22 years. But he really does love Monticello. He doesn’t love it as much as he LOVES Mount Vernon. (NB: Since his last visit to Monticello he has probably visited Mount Vernon seven times.) But then again, your Maximum Leader is a great Washington partisan so that may play a role in his tastes. Regardless of preferences, Monticello is completely deserving of its World Heritage Site designation. In so many ways it shows the character and contradictions of Jefferson himself. While your Maximum Leader isn’t a fan of psycho-history (or psychological analysis of historical figures as it were) he does think you can pick up many elements of Jefferson in his home. The dining room for example is comfortable and lavish, but the dumb-waiter and rotating door for serving food allowed Jefferson to keep his slaves out of sight to his guests. (All but one at any rate.) One the other hand, the main entry hallway is a veritable natural history museum of early America and speaks to his inquisitive mind and superior intelligence. Jefferson is a complicated character. Sort of like the country he is instrumental in founding. If you are in the area and have never visited Monticello, it is worth a visit. Frankly, if you are just passing through Virginia (say on I-95 heading north or south) it is worth a diversion to see.

Interesting… In getting the links to both Monticello and Mount Vernon he sees that both places are now closed to the end of the month. There are too many closures to note. It would probably be easier to note what places are still open and what events are still going on? Like the XFL. The XFL played games today. In front of live people. Your Maximum Leader was a bit surprised to see it actually. He wonders if their ratings were good? They are the only live sport on (it seems). One would think they would get a lot of eyes on TV from a population that is anxiously looking for some distraction.

Speaking of distractions… Here is a mental exercise for you. Your Maximum Leader thought of this one in the car driving back from Charlottesville. Ready? Here you go: Assume the former/late Presidents of the United States were alive and in their retirement after leaving office, but living in 2020. What vehicle do you think they would drive?

That is it. That is the game. If all the men who have served as chief executive of our great republic were alive today, what would they regularly drive?

Your Maximum Leader will go first. George Washington would drive a 2018 Ford F-250 SuperCab with a Powerstroke Turbo Diesel. Washington, after his presidency went back to Mount Vernon and managed his farms. He regularly rode 15-20 miles a day checking in and being personally involved in keeping things running. He would need a big vehicle suited to farm work to get around in. Your Maximum Leader thinks that he would put lots of hours on his truck and would keep it for a long time, which is why this truck isn’t brand-new, but a few years old. Your Maximum Leader thinks he would get a new one when he needed, and that was a few years ago.

John Adams, in retirement, would drive an early 2000’s model Subaru Outback LL Bean edition. It would be very high mileage, but still well kept and maintained. Adams would need the all-wheel drive and heated seats up in Quincy. Plus your Maximum Leader imagines that Adams would be a big-time client of LL Bean. (When Adams died, he would leave the car to John Quincy Adams, who would be happy to keep driving it as it would lessen the load on his own Outback LL Bean edition.)

[UPDATED: Loyal reader, Buckethead of the Ministry of Minor Perfidy, comments that Adams would probably drive a Volvo. Your Maximum Leader endorses this idea. More in comments.]

Thomas Jefferson would drive a 2020 BMW 750i x-drive sedan. It is a big car (he had a large extended family living with him so he would need the space) but the car also sends off that vibe of “I pretend not to be a real jerk, but secretly am a huge jerk.” He would claim that he wanted a car that would befit his station, but still be “practical” for his needs. Of course, this car would be leased and he would get a new one as soon as he hit 25,000 miles.

Andrew Jackson was a toughie. Really tough in fact. On the one hand, he was, like Washington, very engaged in his farm. So it stands to reason that he would need a vehicle that he could drive around The Hermitage. But on the other hand, Jackson was a small angry man who needs a car befitting that part of his personality. If your Maximum Leader was to choose a “farm vehicle” for Jackson it would be a 2014 Chevy Suburban. He has the space and power he needs to move people and stuff around around on the farm. But unlike Washington, who your Maximum Leader can imagine putting stuff in his truck and moving it where it needed to be; he can’t imagine Jackson actually moving stuff around in his own vehicle. He *could* move stuff in the Suburban. But he is more likely just to tell others to get the job done and drive away and circle back later. If your Maximum Leader was choosing the “non-farm” vehicle for Jackson it would be a 1968 Chevy Camaro SS. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure why, but he can imagine Jackson in a blue ‘68 Camaro wearing a leather jacket, mirrored shades, and cruising the streets of Nashville looking to beat the crap out of someone.

Those are the only ones your Maximum Leader could think of in the time he had in the car to think of these things to himself. He wants to think about what vehicle Abraham Lincoln would drive in more detail (he thinks it is probably a Ford F-150). He also is ruminating over what James Madison would drive. (In fact, your Maximum Leader doesn’t think Madison would drive in his retirement. He imagines that Dolley Madison would have a 4-door Jeep Wrangler and would drive little Jimmy where he wanted to go.)

Anyway… If you, dear reader, have any you can suggest, your Maximum Leader would be glad to hear from you.

By the way… This is the type of content your Maximum Leader should be posting more frequently… The really random crap…

Carry on.

Don’t forget your Maximum Leader on the tweety-box: @maximumleader.

Flu Fear

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will remind readers of his (generally) annual trip to the pork capital of Virginia to buy his Easter ham. Last weekend was the glorious Hamquest. (Your Maximum Leader thinks he should hashtag and trademark “Hamquest” lest some lesser mortal try to muscle in on the term.)

Last Saturday your Maximum Leader roused Mrs. Villain, Villainette #2, and the foreign exchange student he is hosting - who we will call FE - from their slumbers to get into the car and head to Smithfield, VA. Smithfield is the home of Smithfield Foods one of the largest pork processors in the world. It also has a 350+ year tradition of producing country hams. Your Maximum Leader took his intrepid band down to Jamestown, VA and caught the ferry to Scotland, VA. From there he proceeded to Surry, then on to Smithfield. He initially bypassed the town to head directly to his ham provider of choice, Darden’s Country Store.

On arriving at Darden’s your Maximum Leader’s party got a treat. You see, last weekend was the weekend that they pack the new hams in the smokehouse. To describe this process for your benefit, before last Saturday, the extended Darden clan had taken the remaining hams from last year (about 30 or so) and placed them in a temporary storage unit they had next to the smokehouse. In another temporary storage unit (which was actually an old shipping container) they had started the process of curing this year’s hams. They had covered the floor of the container with salt then started stacking the fresh hams in the salt. When one layer was down, they cover the layer in salt. Then they add another layer. Then salt the new layer. And so on until they had over 1300 hams packed in salt. They remained in the salt for 2-3 weeks. On the day we arrived, they were taking the hams out of the salt, wiping them off lightly with a dry towel, and then covering them in pepper. Once the salted hams had been peppered, they were hung in the rafters of the smokehouse. They will hang to dry for another week. Then they will be smoked. The smoldering fire will be built and tended for 7-10 days. Day and night the smoke will cover the hams. At the end of 7-10 days the hams are fully cured and then they just age. Your Maximum Leader, as he noted, got one of last year’s hams. So his has aged for over a year. Aging adds more saltiness to the ham and requires more water before cooking. Once a ham is cured it can last years. In fact, the longest your Maximum Leader has kept a cured country ham is 6 years. He didn’t mean to keep the ham that long. He bought one, hung it in the basement. Forgot about the ham. Bought another and prepared it. And the ham sat in a back corner of the basement (of his parents house actually) for 6 years until his mother moved a shelf and saw it. She was going to throw it away, but your Maximum Leader forbade it and prepared the ham shortly after its rediscovery. It was delicious by the way.

Anyhoo… Your Maximum Leader selected a lovely 22 pound ham and paid for it.

While your Maximum Leader was waiting for the ham to be wrapped, he introduced FE to Mr. Darden and explained how FE was an exchange student from China and how we were showing him bits of America you don’t see by visiting New York or DC. Mr. Darden and FE spoke a bit about the Chinese love of pork and how much pork Smithfield Foods exported to China. (In fact, Smithfield Foods it largely owned by the Chinese national investment trust or some such thing. Perhaps that is a post for another day.) So we had a lovely time with the Dardens. We got the ham and went into town to our favorite restaurant, Smithfield Station for lunch.

For lunch your Maximum Leader had the “Smithfield chowder” and the “Station burger.” The chowder was a thin clear broth with potatoes, onion, celery, country bacon (think country ham, but bacon) and chopped clams. It was quite tasty. The burger was a 1/4 pound aged angus burger, with a healthy slice of country ham, 2 slices of country bacon, cheddar cheese, a generous helping of lump crab meat, with chopped purple onion, lettuce, and tomato on a grilled Hawaiian bun. It was really something else. Mrs. Villain had the creamy crab soup, and fish tacos. Villainette #2 had crab soup and and a grilled chicken dish (with country ham as a compliment to the chicken). FE had the crab soup as well and the pork BBQ sandwich.

We had a lovely lunch, and then went to walk through town…

Now, your Maximum Leader has visited Smithfield many many times (pretty much annually) and has always had a wonderful time and found a way to chat with the lovely people of the town. He was proceeding to do so during this visit. He would introduce himself and explain that we were visiting for ham and to show FE parts of America and American life. After our second stop Mrs. Villain took your Maximum Leader aside and said that he shouldn’t mention that FE was from China. You see, she had observed that after mentioning that FE was an exchange student from China a few people we encountered stepped back and were considerably more restrained than they were before that bit of information was exchanged.

So your Maximum Leader said that he would refrain from sharing that bit of information. But, it came up again at some of our other stops. Only this time FE himself mentioned that he was from China. Your Maximum Leader observed that people did seem to change their body language very subtly after that information was exchanged. Furthermore, if your Maximum Leader offered up that FE had been studying in the US for four years in an attempt to reassure people that he wasn’t a walking viral infection fresh from Wuhan, people didn’t change their posture towards him.

All in all it made me a little sad. FE did go to visit his family in China over Christmas break. But he returned before anyone had heard of the Covid-19 virus. He is, as is the whole family here, clear and feeling fine. But you show some people anyone from China (a large country with a population of over a billion people) and they get all squirmy and fearful that they are going to die from the flu. It was a bit disappointing to see in fact. It made your Maximum Leader more than a little sad in fact.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader isn’t going to let this stop him from continuing to take FE out to see this great nation and learn more about America and Americans.

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.

Merry Christmas!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is feeling saucy and rather than posting his normal link to the Adoration by El Greco, you get this image instead for your Christmas viewing.

Christmas by Randall

Merry Christmas to all and to all a naughty night.

Carry on.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader must have forgotten to publish this on Christmas. You have his apologies.)

Some Randoms

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has some random thoughts that he will share here, rather than on the olde tweety-box.

You know, baseball is a hard game to explain to someone from China. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t recall that it was as hard to explain to his own children as they grew up as it is to our exchange student. There are, apparently, many things that don’t make sense to him about the game.

By the way, baseball is everything to which America should aspire. Football is everything that America is.

It is damned hot out. Really damned hot out. Walking a few blocks around downtown is enough to make your Maximum Leader think that he has sweat off 5 pounds.

The metric system is quite easy to use and understand. It is something of a pity that it never caught on here. (By the way, it is 32C outside right now.)

Your Maximum Leader ordered a biography of Aelfred the Great and it should be here today.

Your Maximum Leader has been quite fond of the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” He really enjoyed Season 1. He also really enjoyed Season 2. He is watching Season 3 now (1 or 2 episodes to go - he forgets). He feels that Season 3 is weak and disjointed. There is also a plot line that he has real difficulty stomaching. So last night your Maximum Leader was talking about this hang-up in Season 3 with a friend. At one point the friend said, “So let me get this straight. You are just fine with mind flayers, demi-gorgons, and the whole ‘upside down,’ but an underground base filled with Russians is too much for you to handle?” To which your Maximum Leader replied, “Yes. That is it. I don’t know how the Soviets could move millions of cubic yards of dirt to build that base in Indiana without attracting attention. And how many uniformed Soviets do they have down there and how did they get to Indiana without causing a stir?”

Speaking of Stranger Things… Your Maximum Leader has always had a soft spot in his heart for Winona Ryder. He described her last night as his “secret, wonderfully-wacky, Oscar-nominated, shoplifting, hippy commune loving, girlfriend.” Your Maximum Leader seriously does love her.

Sometimes, dealing with “customer service” departments of large corporations can be a pain in the ass.

Did he mention it is hot out?

And in the TMI department, tomorrow morning your Maximum Leader is going to get a haircut (7:30am) and swing by his parish for some “time in the box” as Robbo would call it. Your Maximum Leader is always amazed at the line for Confession at 8am on Saturday mornings…

There it is. (As Emperor Franz Joseph might say…)

Carry on.

Disrupted.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been disrupted. Very disrupted. Allow him to explain.

Since moving into the Villainschloss, he has had a downstairs room as his “office” or “study.” Your Maximum Leader prefers study himself, but office seems to be more common with Mrs. Villain and the Villainous Offspring. So, his study… The room contained many bookshelves, filled with books (though one shelf of one bookshelf was filled with tchotckes). There was also an old antique leather chair. Next to the chair sat a small side table. The table was big enough to hold a book, cocktail glass, and a candlestick. Then he had his Queen Anne desk in the room as well. He may have shared a photo or two of it on the Twitter at some point in the past.

Well… Your Maximum Leader is past-tensing all of this because he’s been run out of his study beginning today (effectively) and running through the end of June 2020. Why you may ask? Well… For a person… Specifically, a Chinese exchange student who is a classmate (of sorts) with the Wee Villain.

The Wee Villain attends a private school here in Fredericksburg. This school as a good reputation among a circle of wealthy Chinese around Shanghai. So at any given moment there are one or two students from the Shanghai area attending the upper school (aka: the high school). One of these young people is an 18 (soon to be 19) year old senior. He has been living with a family with much younger children (5th grade is the oldest in fact). But that family alerted the school that they could not keep him for his senior year. This caused the school administrators to go into a frantic search to find a family to house and care for this young man for his senior year. The Wee Villain plays two sports with this young Chinese man and they take Spanish together. They get on pretty well and knowing this the school administrators called your Maximum Leader and made the pitch.

Well… We decided to help out and take the young man in. Mrs. Villain was desperately trying to figure out how this was going to work (because at the moment all the Villainous Offspring are at home). It was in this moment of crisis that your Maximum Leader determined to step up an offer up his study to be converted into a bedroom. And so it has been done. It has taken a fair amount of work this weekend to get everything readjusted for the young man’s arrival (tomorrow). Most of the prep work was done by Mrs. Villain, Villainette #2, and the Wee Villain. But today your Maximum Leader has been working all day to get things right. The largest challenge has been related to technology. You see, the primary drop point for internet, phone, and television has been in the closet of the study. This was not going to work out for a number of logistical reasons - chief among them is that your Maximum Leader’s computer (and one or two other tech items) are hard wired only. None of this crazy wi-fi stuff for this. So some equipment and wires needed to be moved through a wall into your Maximum Leader’s “new study for the next year.”

The “new study” is a large unfinished room that has been used for storage. As it has had to be fitted out to house a desk, desk chair, and books. The room, as any good storage room does, has lots of shelving. But the shelving was filled with stuff. Lots of stuff. Before they could house books, the stuff got a sorting. By sorting your Maximum Leader means a purge. As often happens in convenient, roomy, storage rooms things get saved that probably should be discarded. In this case, approximately 2/3 of the stuff on the shelves of the storage room was disposed of, and the remaining 1/3rd was distributed to other areas of the house where it made more sense for the stuff to reside. There was one large casualty of this purge. It was a dresser and side table. They hadn’t been used in a number of years, and were deposited at Goodwill earlier in the process.

The contents (well most of them - one large built-in bookshelf couldn’t be moved and wasn’t emptied - so our exchange student will have at his fingertips a wide array of books on: American History, Western European History (not including the UK or Ireland - which are in another area of the Villainschloss in their own space), Asian History (more Japan and Korea than China), and Political Philosophy) are now in this former storage room. It is from the “new study” that your Maximum Leader types these words to send them into the ether for your reading edification. If there is a benefit to being in this “new study” it is that it is cold. There are no windows. The room is below grade. And there is one HVAC vent that opens fairly close to where your Maximum Leader’s chair is located. So he’s got that going for him.

Wish your Maximum Leader luck for the next year. We hope this all works out… More tales of exchange student adventures will surely come…

Carry on.

The Procedure (In Which He Details Too Much)

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader may go a little off brand here. He is going to drop the 3rd person, and he is going to go graphic. If you don’t want to read about a recent “procedure” performed on your Maximum Leader’s person today you may want to skip this post…

You were warned…

So, like men men of a certain age, I had a colonoscopy today. It was my second actually. My first was 5 years ago. As I write this I am a little light-headed now because the general anesthetic is still wearing off. Honestly I don’t know if my being tired was just the anesthesia wearing off, or the fact that I was just really tired because I didn’t sleep well (or hardly at all - more to come).

If you haven’t had a colonoscopy, the actual “procedure” isn’t bad. It isn’t bad because you are knocked out at have no memory of it. It is the colonoscopy prep that is misery. In fact, it is the worst part of the whole ordeal. I don’t know, dear reader, if you have had a colonoscopy yet. If you haven’t, you should if you have turned 50. (NB: If there is a history of colon polyps or colon cancer in your family you need to take the age of your closest relative when the polyps/cancer was discovered and subtract 18 years and get your first colonoscopy then.) As I have stated, the prep is awful. I will say that I did better this time than five years ago, but it is not fun on the ole hiney-hole.

Let’s get gruesome in our description now shall we?

The preparation began 5 days ago when I stopped eating raw veggies and all leafy veggies. 3 days ago I stopped eating any veggies or fruits that contained any small seed or pits (including those little pips on strawberries - whatever they are called). (NB: Google tells me that those little “pips” as I called them are actually achenes. Achenes are the ovaries of the plant with a tiny seed within. Who knew?) After dinner on Monday it was all clear liquids for me until after the procedure.

So, on Tuesday it was all tea, apple juice, and water for me until about 4 pm. At 4 pm yesterday afternoon, I drank 10 ounces of a really nasty (cherry flavored) stool softener. Specifically, the stuff was magnesium citrate. Then I waited. The process began at 5 pm when I had a really big nasty slimy shit. At 6 pm I started the “poop juice” as I call it. I should look up what it actually is called. Glaxflow. Glaflix. Gla-something. (NB: It is actually Gavilyte.) I got a 4 litre bottle of the stuff and had to drink 3 litres of it in three hours. You are supposed to drink roughly equal measures of the stuff every 10 minutes until you have consumed the 3 litres. As I said, I started drinking the infernal liquid at 6 pm. Sure enough, within thirty minutes the jet-like evacuation from my bottom of contents of my digestive tract had begun. The worst part of this phase of the prep is that every time you think to yourself, “Self, this is just a wee tiny fart” it is actually about a cup of fecal-infused liquid shooting out of your asshole at about 60 mph. Needless to say you spend a lot of time on the throne waiting for little visitors that don’t feel all that little.

Unlike my last procedure (when I thought I could “tough it out - I was wrong by the way), I was prepared this time to care for my bum. I was equipped with warm, sensitive skin, baby wipes to clean up. Those help a lot, but by about 10 pm your anus has pretty much had enough and is a raw, swollen, painful mess and the only thing coming out of you at this point is yellow-tinged liquid. The flow stopped around 11:30 pm. But then one is worried about going to sleep and shitting the bed because you fear that your body thinks you need to fart, but in reality your farts are really blasts of poop juice yearning to be free. I didn’t get to sleep until a little after midnight. I slept fitfully until my alarm went off at 4 am. Why 4 am you ask? Well… If you recall, I was given 4 litres of poop juice to consume, but only consumed 3. You have to finish that last litre three hours before you check in for your procedure. My check in this morning was 7 am. So there I was a few minutes after 4 am, in the kitchen, drinking the last of the vile stuff. You would think that there wouldn’t be anything left in you after 5 hours of shitting out the contents of your digestive tract that had just ended a few hours before. But you’d be wrong. Some odd small fibers came out right away. And then the piece de resistance came at 5 am this morning, in the midst of all the clear fluid there was one lone piece of crap. It was slightly larger than a piece of corn. And it was a smooth sphere. It was like a perfectly manufactured ball of fetid chocolate that somehow survived the first wave only to succumb to the follow-up assault. I admit I was shocked to see it there. But that was the last bit of anything inside me. I was perfectly clean after that. (The doctor told me so.)

So I went to the surgery center and checked in (with Mrs. Villain there to bring me home). They took me back and got me ready. They had trouble finding a vein for the IV. It took 2 nurses three tries before they got me. I have my mother to thank for that. She had “slippery veins” and getting an IV in her was a miserable ordeal. I wouldn’t say it was misery for me, but it was uncomfortable until they got it in.

After they got me all prepped, I sat around until it was my turn. Once it was my turn, I got wheeled in and then knocked out. Oh yes. Knocked out with the sweet, sweet propofol. I joked with the anesthesiologist during the pre-op process that I was looking forward to the “Michael Jackson milk.” Sadly, the anesthesiologist didn’t think this was nearly as funny as I did. (NB: During my last “procedure” I knew the anesthesiologist, we are friends socially. I made this joke to him and he went with it. The “milk” jokes flew for a few minutes. It was great. This time, I was semi-scolded and advised that there would be no funny stuff with the propofol.) I woke up a bit later (probably about 30 minutes later) and had some fruit juice and crackers. Then I got dressed and came home. Upon return to the Villainschloss, I went to bed and to sleep for about 90 minutes. After my nap, I have been up and around, but still a little light-headed from time to time. I attribute this to needing real food more than anything else.

In the aftermath, it looks like this will be an every five year thing for me. All was well. 2 small polyps were removed. I should have biopsy results in about 10 days. My doctor said they didn’t look bad. Last time he removed 3 polyps that were all a bit bigger. I’ll keep getting checked to make sure no polyp grows up in my colon.

Fun times…

Thanks for reading, if you are still reading… And do get yourself checked out if you haven’t been. Colon cancer is lethal and also easily preventable with regular checks.

Carry on.

Disaster

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sat down to blog the other night. While he was sitting at his computer, he thought he heard a dripping noise. He couldn’t place where it was, but it seemed irregular and faint. He asked his son to listen for it, but he couldn’t hear it. So you Maximum Leader chalked it up to getting old and hearing things.

Bad move.

The next day, Villainette #2 (home for Spring Break from VA Tech), called around lunch time to announce that your Maximum Leader’s office was soaked. The carpet was soaked. His desk was soaked. And there was water dripping from a light fixture and a vent.

Well, the long and short of this is that there is apparently a leak in the shower above your Maximum Leader’s office. There are holes in the ceiling to inspect to find from whence the water is coming. So far no luck. But the plumbers will be there in a little while. It is looking expensive.

The downside is that your Maximum Leader’s attempt to revive this blog and write is not working out too much. His computer was not damaged, but he may need a new keyboard…

Ugh.

Carry on.

Armoured Trains

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is quite fond of the choo-choos. Oh yes indeed. He would make most of his travel rail travel if time, expense, and availability of stops weren’t a factor. He would gladly hop on a train and go to just about anywhere he had to go.

Sadly, he does not. He could take a commuter train to DC more often. (But for where and when he goes driving is best.) He does prefer and take the train to Philly, and NYC when he has occasion to go there. He’s planning a trip to Roanoke on the train (to visit Villainette #2). But making the time to get the train that goes to Roanoke is a bit of a chore.

If your Maximum Leader were truly a murderous dictator (or merely a tyrant, or even a person of conspicuous wealth) he would gladly have a private train on which he would travel. Of course, your Maximum Leader’s train would be much nicer looking that Kim Jong-un’s. Kim’s train is nothing special to look at. Your Maximum Leader would prefer more streamlined, and not green. Something like Raymond Loewy would have designed. Like one of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s S-1 or T-1 locomotives (seen here). But obviously (and sadly) not steam powered. One thinks the locomotives would have to be diesel (or some futuristic diesel and electric hybrid - running on electric on the electrified tracks of the Northeast Corridor, but having diesel for the non-electrified track). And it goes without saying that while your Maximum Leader’s train would be stocked full of fine foods, adult beverages, and comely conductors like Kim’s train, it would travel faster than 37 mph.

Of course, your Maximum Leader mentioned the very famous PRR S-1 and T-1 locomotives as a basis for the design of his train. Your Maximum Leader’s favourite locomotive in the whole wide world is the Norfolk & Western J-Class. He would probably use the J-Class as a model for the locomotive on his (completely hypothetical) armoured train.

NB: Your Maximum Leader must have some British English box checked on spell check because armor appears wrong but armour appears to be correct.

Carry on.

Unexpected Joy

Greetings, loyal minions. This weekend has been one of unexpected joy. Both Villainettes are college students now. As such, they are not home often. This weekend, Mrs. Villain had planned to get Villainette #1 (a senior at VCU) and bring her home to the Villainschoss on Friday night to spend the weekend with us and do some general “family stuff.” Well, Mrs. Villain had a bad headache on Friday night and your Maximum Leader himself made the trek (45 mins each way) to get Villainette #1 (who has no vehicle of her own) and brought her back home.

Apparently, while your Maximum Leader was on the road to Richmond, Villainette #2 (a sophomore at Virginia Tech) was on the phone with Mrs. Villain. The upshot of that phone call was that Villainette #2 decided to get in her vehicle and trek up home herself. That is a 3.5 hour drive. She started at 8pm. It caused her mom and dad a little anxiety (driving at night on I-81 is never fun). But she got home safe and sound. (I don’t know why it causes anxiety for us since she just drove all the way from Fredericksburg, VA to Orlando, FL and back over Christmas.)

Anyway… The full family was here (and frankly still is for a little while longer) for the weekend. That is an unexpected joy.

Carry on.

The Black Dog

Greetings, loyal minions. You know, Winston Churchill was prone to bouts of what we would now describe as depression. Back in the day, it might have been called melancholy. When Churchill suffered from it his family, friends, and associates would say that “the Black Dog” had come and settled in. I mention this because I think I may be having a black dog of my own.

I wouldn’t call it depression, certainly not in any sort of clinical sense. Just a profound melancholy and abiding non-specific sadness that has lingered over me for a while. I can’t exactly put a finger on the cause. Perhaps it is generally anxiety over real life. You know the stuff. Kids in college. Work. Kid in High School. Relatives in a precarious health situation. Mortgage. My own weight and health. Just generalised stuff. I am hesitant to write that there is also anxiety over politics. But there is anxiety over politics too. I don’t want to be branded as having “Trump Derangement Syndrome” or whatever his advocates call it. I will say that he is by leaps and bounds the worst man to occupy the White House in my lifetime. (And I was born when Nixon was President - so that means something.)

As I’ve noted here, I didn’t vote for Donald Trump for President. I will not ever vote for him for anything. I do think he is a danger to the Republic. But he hasn’t actually accomplished as many things as many accuse him of accomplishing. He threatens. He is filled with lies and bluster. But he isn’t doing quite as much as many think. That being said, he is dangerously incompetent and that is likely the source of my generalised anxiety about him, and the state of the Republic today.

So my basic feeling is “Bleh.”

And that is about all there is to say about that.

Carry on.

Whereupon We Write About the Confederate Flag & Free Speech.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

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

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

The More Things Change…

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

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

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

They were, compared to today, different ages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

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