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

La France

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hear him out on this.

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

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

That is the Franco-American relationship.

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

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

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

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

Anyhow… Those are some thoughts on France…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Happy New Year & German Babies

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes you a prosperous and happy 2015. The first few days of this new year haven’t been all that bad. Your Maximum Leader attended the NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park on January 1st. That game will go down as one of the best sports memories of his life. It was great at so many levels… If you are a hockey fan and have a chance to go to a Winter Classic; you should.

Of course, your Maximum Leader was prepared for a long day outside on January 1 because he got a good night’s sleep on the night of December 31 to January 1. Your Maximum Leader has decided that from now on he celebrates New Years according to Greenwich Mean Time. That meant that he was toasting the new year at 7:00pm local time. It worked out well because it was right in the middle of a nice dinner. Your Maximum Leader was able to enjoy a meal, have a drink, then take a leisurely shower and retire to bed and get a full night’s sleep. He woke at his normal time (feeling no worse for wear) and carried on throughout the day.

Yesterday was the day when, for reasons of convenience mostly, your Maximum Leader “celebrated” Christmas with his family. His parents and sister (and sister’s family) came to the Villainschloss. We dined on pork tenderloin and a host of sides. One of those sides was Yorkshire Pudding. While most people associate Yorkshire Pudding with roast beef, it really can be had with almost any land-based roasted protein.

Well… Your Maximum Leader’s family are real fans of Yorkshire Pudding. We tend to eat quite a bit of it when we have it. So your Maximum Leader made a huge batch of the pudding batter and cooked it up in batches as the family was together. By cooking in smaller pans and smaller batches the pudding is always fluffy and hot when it is consumed.

Anyhoo… Your Maximum Leader over prepared the batter and had quite a bit left uncooked at the end of the day. Mrs. Villain thought this was great because that meant that we could have “german babies” for breakfast the next day (which is today as I write this). Your Maximum Leader was taken aback. What were these “german babies” and why would we be eating them? It seemed a little much to start in on the cannibalism so soon in the new year and with our larder being pretty full. It was then that Mrs. Villain explained that close friends of hers growing up would make Yorkshire Pudding batter and cook the pudding in muffin tins and would take them from the oven and serve them for breakfast covered in maple syrup and confectioners sugar. This dish was known as a “german baby.”

This morning your Maximum Leader cooked up the last of the Yorkshire Pudding batter and did serve it up with maple syrup and confectioners sugar. It was pretty tasty all in all. Your Maximum Leader has even found a formal recipe for “german babies.” You can clicken here to see it. (And if you want a more glorified recipe there is one here. There is also a related Wiki page for “Dutch Baby Pancakes.”)

So there we are… Your Maximum Leader consumed german babies for breakfast this morning. And he liked it.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Twitter: @maximumleader

A Lesson Learnt

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is at the Villainschloss with his two daughters. Mrs. Villain and the Wee Villain (who isn’t so wee anymore as he is nearly 5 ft tall at 10 yrs old) are in the greater Boston area right now.

You see, last month, Mrs. Villain’s uncle died. He had been battling cancer, and finally succumbed. It was our family plan to change our vacation plans to Canada and divert to Boston for the funeral. But, the funeral was postponed until this weekend to accommodate the attendance of more relatives. Sadly, due to the beginning of the school year and some anticipated financial outlays, not all of your Maximum Leader’s family was going to be able to attend the memorial service/funeral which occurred earlier today. We determined early on that Mrs. Villain had to go. We bought a plane ticket and made arrangements. The Villainettes were, in a way, glad not to be able to go. Funerals aren’t their thing.

And that is what is prompting your Maximum Leader to write. Funerals aren’t their thing. To be honest, they have not faced much death in their short lives. Your Maximum Leader had dealt with more death in his family than they have at the corresponding time in their lives. The girls have developed something akin to a fear of death. It is your Maximum Leader’s pet theory that they have gotten this from their lovely mother, your Maximum Leader’s beloved wife. She has a fear of death. She doesn’t like to discuss death. When your Maximum Leader jokes about his own mortality - something he thinks he does only to poke a little fun at while at the same time annoying his lovely wife - she gets upset. His daughters may have a degree of fear of death that your Maximum Leader doesn’t have.

This isn’t to say that your Maximum Leader doesn’t have a healthy respect for death, or seeks it. He doesn’t. But he has come to peace with the idea that death is inevitable. And when one considers the randomness of the universe, it is something that can come unexpectedly and in a way that one cannot control. Your Maximum Leader feels (rather strongly) that we in the West have done our best to isolate, or perhaps better said - insulate, ourselves from death. As recently as 75 yrs ago people routinely died at home. With their family. In multigenerational homes grandparents regularly shuffled their mortal coils in the presence of their grandchildren. It just happened. Today people die in hospitals, or nursing homes. They often die without their extended families near. We have become, culturally, Louis XIV who banished the dying from Versailles so that he did not have to deal with his own mortality.

So. The Villainettes while not “happy” to miss their great-uncle’s funeral, weren’t all that upset to have to stay home.

But surprisingly, the Wee Villain was upset to stay home.

You may recall that a few short lines ago your Maximum Leader said that the Wee Villain was in Boston with his mother at the funeral. This was an ad hoc decision - to have him go. For a the past two weeks the Wee Villain would keep mentioning that he wanted to go to the funeral. Mrs. Villain and your Maximum Leader for a time thought that this was because the Wee Villain thought he’d be getting a trip to Boston out of it and might get some good food and catch a Red Sox game. After a few times mentioning it, your Maximum Leader took his son aside and asked him why he wanted to go to the funeral so much. His answer surprised your Maximum Leader.

He said, “I want to see our cousins and be there for them.” That answer wasn’t too surprising. But when your Maximum Leader pointed out that there wouldn’t be time for fun or pizza or baseball, the Wee Villain said “Civilized people bury their dead, and I need to help.”

Your Maximum Leader immediately recognized those words… Last summer, we traveled to New England (Boston & Rhode Island) for vacation; but also to bury Mrs. Villain’s grandmother (the mother of her uncle who just passed). She passed early last year, and again for ease of getting people together, the funeral was delayed. At the burial at the family plot, after the minister gave his remarks all were invited to place a shovelful of dirt into the grave. Your Maximum Leader’s children looked at him in horror as he held the shovel up and motioned for one of them to take it and place dirt into the grave. Your Maximum Leader walked up to his children and said, “Civilized people bury their dead. It is a sign of respect and I will not have you all shirk your duties in this. You will do it today for Great Nannie. One day I hope you will do it for me.” The first of his children to take the shovel from him was his son. All three of his children did what your Maximum Leader expected/told them to do.

Apparently, the lesson was really learnt by one of his children.

After his response, your Maximum Leader made arrangements for him to go to the funeral. He was there today, doing what civilized people do and burying his dead.

Your Maximum Leader is also told that there were lobster rolls and some baseball among cousins after the memorial service.

And that is good.

God bless you Bill. Requiescat in pace.

Or as they say in the land of our ancestry: Gus am bris an là

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Middle East Diatribing

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been paying a lot of attention to the news of late. There is so much going on it is hard to get it all into a single post. He will try to get some highlights of his thoughts together in this post as his thoughts relate to the Middle East.

Let your Maximum Leader begin with the easiest part of the Middle East. That part is Israel. Your Maximum Leader isn’t saying that the whole Arab-Israeli conflict is the “easy” part of the Middle East. It isn’t. For your Maximum Leader, Israel is the easiest place to start his discussion. Allow him to start thusly. Israel is the only country in the Middle East that is fully deserving of full and robust US support. Frankly it is the only country in the region worthy of the support of any rational person who supports Western Civilization in any meaningful sense. Israel is a fully functioning Western Democracy, born of the Western Tradition, with civil society and political institutions that would be familiar to any American. They are a rational actor in an irrational region.

This is not to say that Israel is perfect, or blameless, in how it conducts its affairs. It is not. But a rational and reasonable person can understand why Israel reacts the way it does and should be able to support Israel.

Has Israel treated the people of Gaza badly? Yes. Do the Gazans (of all factions, Hamas, PLS, Hezbollah, etc) have a legitimate beef with the heavy-handed Israeli blockade of Gaza that has gone on for years? Yes, they actually do. But on the other hand (the hand that your Maximum Leader puts more weight on right now to be clear), the Gazans are committed to the destruction of Israel. The Gazans are not good neighbors. The Gazans have consistently shown that they are unwilling to govern themselves in a civilized manner and show that they are undeserving of an independent state.

Hamas, a faction that has enjoyed wide and deep support among Gazans for a long time, wants to revert the area that is now Gaza, Israel, the West Bank and other territories to a single political entity in which Jews can be eradicated (and probably Christians too after Jews are gone). They are not looking to establish a tolerant, or moderate state. They are looking to create exactly what exists in the territories controlled by ISIS.

Frankly, when Hamas started launching rockets at Israel, your Maximum Leader thought Israel started off by being very restrained. They didn’t march in right away. They didn’t start retaliating right away. Frankly your Maximum Leader would have. He knows it’s a tired cliche, but if Canada started launching rockets from Toronto to Buffalo (or Vancouver to Seattle or Windsor to Detroit - yes even Detroit) or Mexico started launching rockets from Tijuana to San Diego or even if Minneapolis started launching rockets at St Paul; your Maximum Leader would be calling up reserves and bombing the crap out of the aggressor.

Your Maximum Leader will speculate on a few items here. 1) Does the perception of “disproportionally” offend some in the US and the West and make those offended people anti-Israel? This is to say that because the losses are so much higher on the Gazan side there is some perception of “unfairness” and these people can’t abide the perception of “unfairness?” This is a serious thought. Are some people turned off at seeing that there are thousands of dead Gazans for a few tens of dead Israelis they they just think Israel needs to be stopped? Your Maximum Leader thinks this does describe a number of those who are anti-Israel. 2) Is being anti-Israel or anti-Zionist just veiled anti-Semitism? Your Maximum Leader thinks that this is the case among many Europeans and a fair number of Americans. 3) Do some people project their own national guilt onto Israel and want to roll back time to assuage the guilt? This is a uniquely American position. Your Maximum Leader wonders if some Americans think that the creation of Israel is actually the root cause of the problem and if Israel were “uncreated” everything would be okay. The sublimated national guilt here is the “we took America from the Indians” guilt. People who feel guilt at the taking of America from the natives don’t want to uncreate the USA and displace themselves but would feel a whole lot better if they could uncreate another country and displace some others who shouldn’t be there anyway.

That last one is a little far out, but some conversations your Maximum Leader’s had recently do make him think that it could be plausible.

So… Let your Maximum Leader take up a point he made a moment ago and do a little segue. The Gazans have shown themselves incapable of being an independent state. Do you know who else has shown themselves to be incapable of being - or at least running - and independent state? Just about every nation in the region that was part of the “Arab Spring.”

Can we name the nations where the Arab Spring has turned out okay? Hummmm… Algeria…

Okay. That is it. Algeria. (And Morocco to a lesser extent in that the Arab Spring promoted constitutional reforms in the existing framework of the government.)

Where have “liberation movements” in the Arab world failed? Egypt. Libya. Lebanon. Syria.

You know. Back in the day when rational, intelligent, and grown-up behaving people “ran” the world there was a way of distinguishing “your bastard” from “the other guys bastard” from “a pack of murderous rabble.” Your Maximum Leader is thinking back to places like Chile under Pinochet. Yes, Chile could be a very unpleasant, dangerous and deadly place for people who didn’t support the Pinochet dictatorship. But the Pinochet dictatorship provided security and a free economy. Also, Chile was on “our” side in the Cold War. Pinochet was our bastard, so to speak. Sure many liberals didn’t like that the US supported Pinochet for all those years, but in the end, Pinochet was eased out. Chile became free politically. And there was no bloody civil war resultant from that changeover.

(NB: BTW, isn’t it funny how many liberal/progressive people who couldn’t stand the Pinochet regime are more than pleased with China. Isn’t China effectively the same type of nation? Political dictatorship with a secure and stable society with a reasonably free economy. Interesting…)

Anyhooo… Your Maximum Leader will posit to you all that we were better off - and frankly the citizens of many of the nations where the Arab Spring has failed were better off - with the dictators. Quadaffi was an evil murderous bastard - but is Libya better off now without him? Egypt’s military pulled the plug on their experiment with reform. Your Maximum Leader is glad they have. He actually had high hopes for Egypt. He thought that the moderate educated Egyptians who seemed to be the major protest force would somehow couple with the Army and create a secular moderate Arab Republic. Too bad they had to decide to rely on a democratic process that put Hamas in charge.

Syria is still fighting it out.

Let us think of Syria for a while here. Is there a sane human being out there that believes that Syria will be better off completely throwing off the yoke of Assad?

Okay. Let your Maximum Leader say it. He doesn’t. He is, at this point, hoping that Assad pulls this out and GOES BACK TO BEING THE BRUTAL DICTATOR HE WAS IN THE PAST. The key here is going back to the way he was. If he does win and crush the various rebelling factions assailing him and then decided to be a different kind of brutal dictator then we have a different problem. The whole House of Assad are evil men who do terrible things. But they are (or at least have been in the past) secular and rational. They act in their own self-interest, which is known and can be dealt with. They are not the (largely religious) crazies that are running Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIS among others.

So… Now we get to ISIS. Or the Islamic State. Or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Or whatever they are called. Your Maximum Leader will go with ISIS for now (although it offends me because he doesn’t see why he would want to besmirch the ancient Egyptian goddess Isis in any way).

ISIS is what you get when you mix religion, organization and civil unrest. Your Maximum Leader was surprised when they appeared out of nowhere and suddenly controlled a territory larger than most US states. He was even more surprised when they were able to beat the pants off the Iraqi Army. He is now not surprised by anything ISIS is doing. They are a motivated, organized, dedicated and now well-equipped force. As much as it is repulsive to your Maximum Leader, the “state” ISIS is creating is more of a functioning state than either Syria or Iraq have been for a few years.

Your Maximum Leader can see how ISIS could take root in Syria. But he thought that Iraq would put up more of a fight. That Iraq is not able to defend itself or possibly even remain a viable state itself is due to the United States. To channel Colin Powell… We broke it. We broke Iraq. The good ole US of A. Your Maximum Leader was in favor of breaking Iraq. Let him be honest. He was for it. He wasn’t for it in exactly the way the Bush Administration was; but he wanted to see Saddam Hussein gone and he wanted to “shake up” the region.

Guess what. That was a monumentally stupid fucking call.

Your Maximum Leader, would take a completely different approach now. This is, of course, only with the benefit of hindsight. Seeing what is becoming of the area. Seeing how the Arab Spring has turned out. Seeing how unrest in the region leads directly to what can only be called Islamic theocracies with a murderous and expansionist bent. He would be happy to continue to contain Saddam Hussein and let the miserable bastard stay on.

But we didn’t and now we are paying the price.

So… What to do? Well… If you are President Obama you don’t have a lot of options. He can’t go back into Iraq because his whole foreign policy was to get us out of Iraq. He doesn’t have lots of tricks to use except airpower and arming groups to fight ISIS. Your Maximum Leader is all for arming the Kurds and letting them declare their own state. Sure it will piss off everyone else in the region; but at this point the options are all bad, we’re only trying to find the least bad options out there. Letting the Kurds fight for their own nation makes some sense. One supposes that we will do as much as we can from the air to support the rump Iraq. Perhaps in supporting a rump Iraq we might wind up getting a little closer to Iran - who one suspects will help the Shias in southern Iraq.

Again… There aren’t lots of options out there. And the ones that are there, all of them are bad. Your Maximum Leader is open to being educated to options he doesn’t see. But there is a whole lot of blame and criticizing and not a lot of presenting options out there. All your Maximum Leader has he’s put out here. Here it is again in case you missed it: Support Israel. Support the Egyptian military government. Don’t stand in the way of Assad taking back control in Syria. Arm the Kurds. Airstrike the crap out of ISIS. Hope a rump Iraq can make it.

That is pretty much it. And it sucks quite frankly…

All this, and your Maximum Leader hasn’t even touched on Russia, Europe and Ukraine… Or Ebola. Or healthcare. Or the impending US elections.

Ugh.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

William Paul’s Brother & Stuff

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader needed to write something to move his Easter piece down some. Certainly observant Catholics and Orthodox adherents will know that we are still in the Easter season; but it is time for this small corner of the interwebs to move along.

So, Mrs. Villain wanted to do something fun for Mother’s Day. We decided the fun thing to do would be to go to Annapolis, MD for the day. Your Maximum Leader put his usual avoidance of the whole state of Maryland on hold for the day and went with the family. Indeed, it was a wonderful day all in all. The weather was bright and wonderful. The city is always pretty, and was so during our visit. It was crowded, but that is to be expected.

We didn’t have much of a plan in going. But we did have a few things that Mrs. Villain said she wanted to do. She wanted to visit the US Naval Academy and (on your Maximum Leader’s suggestion) see the gardens at the William Paca house*. We did just that. Your Maximum Leader and Mrs Villain hadn’t been to Annapolis in about 15 years. Indeed, during our last visit we also walked around the grounds of the Naval Academy. Proof of this is that we have a photo of a year old Villainette #1 sitting in a flower bed near the Herndon monument. Your Maximum Leader recalls how (a pregnant) Mrs Villain carried the little Villainette into the flower bed, propped her up and stepped out of the flower bed to take the photo. He also recalls some Midshipmen looking on horror as this happened. Your Maximum Leader generally isn’t much for putting babies in well-groomed flower beds at military facilities as a matter of course. But then again, your Maximum Leader is generally in favor of letting a pregnant woman do what she wants to do within reason. And staging a photo in a flower bed didn’t seem at the time to be too unreasonable.

Anyhoo…

We took the guided tour of the Naval Academy. Our tour guide was very pleasant, but he spoke both rapidly and quietly. If your Maximum Leader were to guess, he would say that our guide was originally from Maine as well. The combination of a quick-talking, hushed-toned New Englander and a large group made it hard for us to hear all he said. Indeed, your Maximum Leader and the Wee Villain made it a point to get close and listen. Mrs Villain and the Villainettes stood near the back of the group and later complained that they only heard about 15% of what was said (and the Villainettes said they understood only about 75% of what they did hear). (NB: Apparently our New Englander relatives aren’t accented enough for the Villainettes to have “picked up” listening to and understanding the accent.)

The Naval Academy tour ends with visiting the tomb of John Paul Jones. During the tour John Paul Jones (along with other naval luminaries) was mentioned quite a bit. During the discussions of Paul Jones, your Maximum Leader had a nagging feeling in his brain that there was some sort of “connection” between Paul Jones and himself. Not an ancestral connection; but another sort of connection.

Eventually (after arriving back at the Villainschloss), your Maximum Leader went onto Wikipaedia and looked up John Paul Jones. There was the connection! John Paul Jones, before joining the fledgling Continental (soon-to-be United States) Navy, was a frequent visitor of his older brother, William Paul. William Paul was a tailor in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Your Maximum Leader lives in Fredericksburg, VA and remembered seeing the grave of William Paul in the burying ground of St. George’s Episcopal Church. He also seemed to remember that he’d once seen a historical marker on a house in town that indicated that the house was William Paul’s house.

Thus started your Maximum Leader’s little “John Paul Jones” kick. Your Maximum Leader walked by St George’s and saw William Paul’s grave (embellished as it is now by “admirers” of his younger brother). He also walked on down to 501 Caroline Street in Fredericksburg and saw the plaque indicating that the house was that of William Paul and was where John Paul Jones stayed during his frequent visits to Fredericksburg.

Then your Maximum Leader decided he needed to know more about our nation’s first great naval hero, so he logged onto The Facebook and tried to bug our friend Robbo to see if he could recommend a biography of Paul Jones. Ultimately, your Maximum Leader went with “John Paul Jones: A Sailor’s Biography” by Samuel Eliot Morison. Your Maximum Leader is a fan of Morison and figured that this Pulitzer winning biography couldn’t be bad. Indeed, it is not disappointing your Maximum Leader. He is about a third of the way through and enjoying it very much.

So, there you have it. Your Maximum Leader’s (tenuous) connection to John Paul Jones.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader would have liked to have had the money when the William Paul house was last on the market. It was purchased for $150,000 a few years back. It is currently undergoing some restoration. Although he isn’t sure that he would want to own a nearly 300 year old house, it would have been cool and had some story value…)

Moving along to the other “stuff” mentioned in the header of this post…

Well… There isn’t much other stuff that your Maximum Leader is inclined to blog about. The day is beautiful and he might take his book and read outside for a little while. Thanks to the many inches of rain that has fallen upon this area in the past few weeks, the pollen isn’t as bad as it could be. On the other hand, the Villainschloss lawn has gone to seed. Literally, the grass has grown tall enough to go to seed. This is because your Maximum Leader’s lawn mower is in the shop and awaiting new blades. The old blades haven given up the ghost after 11 years of useful service. Thankfully, replacing the blades is all that was needed since the Honda engine is going strong and will likely give another 11 years of useful service.

Perhaps there is another post loitering around in your Maximum Leader’s brain that he will let fall out into the ether…

Until then…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

* - By the way, the gardens at the William Paca House were past their prime. One imagines that in a few weeks they will be bouncing back with some more flowering plants. Apparently we visited during the in-between time…

Is this a post I see before me?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader makes two posts in two days. Think of it. It is like we are back to the halcyon days of 2004 or something…

Okay. That was a big buildup for very little payout. Your Maximum Leader apologizes in advance. (If anyone out there is reading this…)

So, your Maximum Leader forgot to note the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Hobbes last weekend. The man labeled on the right side link bar of this site as “Our Philosopher” would have turned 426 on April 5. Your Maximum Leader has not, until the very moment that he typed these words, bothered to think about the accuracy of the birthday given that it was prior to the New Style Act of 1750. Regardless… April 5th it shall be for your Maximum Leader.

Speaking of ole Thomas Hobbes… Your Maximum Leader has begun over the past years to feel he is getting more stupid. He is forgetting things he used to know. What is worse, he has a lingering knowledge that he USED to know something that he’s now unable to recall. Contemplating Hobbes’ birthday reminded your Maximum Leader that other than the “common” things that any student of history and government would recall; he’s forgotten much of the detail he used to know about Hobbes’ works. This could likely be remedied by a re-reading of Leviathan and other works. But there is some inertia or laziness that keeps him from getting motivated to do so…

This inertia has also manifested itself in your Maximum Leader’s Lenten observances. Your Maximum Leader has tried not to make a big deal of it, but he’s been doing much better at being an observant Catholic over the past years. Without trying to sound hypocritical, he’s been very outwardly observant. But there is a lot to be desired in his inner spiritual life. This Lent has been one of disappointment. Unlike many Catholics, your Maximum Leader doesn’t try to “give up” something for Lent; but rather (and the suggestion of a priest many many years ago) “DO” something that will improve and grow your faith and well-being. This year your Maximum Leader resolved to read & contemplate some of the writings of his name saint, Augustine of Hippo. The plan was to read from Augustine’s writings, then take a nice long walk to contemplate what he’d just read. Well, how many times has that pairing happened? Exactly zero times. He’s walked. He’s read (though very lightly). But the pairing has not occurred. This is a Lenten resolution that will likely have to outlive Lent in order to give your Maximum Leader a feeling of accomplishing something.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader is exceedingly pleased at how his Washington Nationals are performing out of the starting blocks of this 2014 baseball season. They have done well against the Mets and Marlins. They took 1 of 3 against the Braves with another series against the Braves (in Atlanta) coming up. He hopes they continue to be strong and get a nice cushion of wins under their proverbial belts before the middle of the season. These early wins are very valuable over 162 games.

If your Maximum Leader can find the motivation and time, he hopes to write a short essay on independence movements in Europe. It is something he’s been thinking about off and on with all the news out of Scotland, Catalonia, Venice and Ukraine…

That is all for now…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

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