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Triduum

The Resurrection of Christ by Rembrandt Van Rijin

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is writing on his blog on a Saturday afternoon. Holy Saturday as a matter of fact. What are the odds of that happening? He would have said very low until he actually started writing… Here is a Holy Triduum brain dump.

So today is the final day of the Holy Triduum. Your Maximum Leader has been (so far) and will continue (barring the unexpected) to celebrate the Holy Triduum. He attended Mass on Holy Thursday (the Feast of the Last Supper) and Good Friday (The Passion of Our Lord). He plans on going to the Easter Vigil Mass tonight (The Resurrection of Our Lord).

Given that your Maximum Leader has pretty much failed at all that he resolved to do this Lenten season; he has been acutely aware of what has been going on during the Triduum. It is as though he feels that by being EXTRA good these three days he’ll somehow make up for being a lazy arse for all of Lent. But by being conscious and aware in the moment during the previous two days has lead him to make two observations. The first is that he is profoundly discomforted at both the Holy Thursday and Good Friday Masses. The second is that he does truly love the Easter Vigil Mass.

Allow your Maximum Leader to expand on the first point. The discomfort that your Maximum Leader has during the Holy Thursday mass is twofold and in both instances relates to the extraordinary event of that Mass. The event is, of course, the washing of feet by the priest. The first bit of discomfort is just your Maximum Leader having a thing about people touching his feet. He doesn’t care for it at all. He doesn’t want his feet to be touched. In the same way that he really dislikes massages, he dislikes touching of the feet. So to watch someone wash the feet of someone else sorta puts your Maximum Leader off a little bit.

Then there is the fact that the priest is washing the feet of a parishioner/someone. Your Maximum Leader understands why this happens and the theology behind it; but perhaps your Maximum Leader identifies with Peter a little too much when Peter protests having his feet washed (John 13: 8-11). Your Maximum Leader knows that this service of the priest is symbolic of the larger call to service; but it is discomforting. Your Maximum Leader believes that he would likely decline an offer to have his priest, bishop or even the Pope himself wash his feet. It would be too much for your Maximum Leader - given his feet hangup among other items.

The discomfort your Maximum Leader feels on Good Friday comes from the reading of the Passion according to Saint John. For those of you unfamiliar with the practice, on Good Friday the Passion according to Saint John is read by the priest officiant and others. Basically the Chapters 18 and 19 of the Gospel of Saint John are read in their entirety. The priest officiant reads the part of Jesus. Another person reads the “narrative” and a third (and possibly others) read all of the other spoken lines. In some cases the assembled congregation reads the lines of the “crowd.”

Since he was young this has been a difficult Mass. To have John read aloud is a very different experience than to read it to oneself. To have different voices reading aloud is more moving. At your Maximum Leader’s parish, the Passion is sung - which seems to unsettle your Maximum Leader even more. At some level your Maximum Leader’s modern sensibilities are what are disrupted by the account of the Passion. He is offended by the betrayal of Judas for money. Selling out someone for money really offends your Maximum Leader. Then the legal railroading of Jesus by the High Priest. Your Maximum Leader has something of a legalist mindset himself and to use the law to an unjust end offends him as well. (NB: Your Maximum Leader understands that “the law” in almost any context is not the same as “justice.” That will have to be a discussion for another time…) Then there is the whole interaction with Pilate. Of all of the parts of the Passion this one affects your Maximum Leader the most. Of all the actors in this story the one your Maximum Leader identifies with the most is Pontius Pilate. He couldn’t tell you why, but he does. Pilate tries and tries to do the “right” thing; but is blocked at every maneuver from doing what he wants to do. He tries to get the crowd to ask for Jesus’ release; but the Sanhedrin has control of the crowd. He tries to get Jesus to say something incriminating in order that Jesus’ execution would be more justified. But Jesus doesn’t give him any room to move. He is cornered. What makes this passage all the more emotional for your Maximum Leader is the knowledge that the Romans (by the by) were not averse to executing people to begin with. The list of capital offenses was long. The Romans liked to keep order and strict enforcement of the law (and required executions) was good for Roman rule - particularly in a difficult province like Judea. So the actions of Pontius Pilate seem so extraordinary as to be disturbing. It is hard for your Maximum Leader to wrap his brain around the idea that a Roman Governor would actively try to NOT execute someone that the locals WANTED to be executed (and thus keep peace and order) unless the Roman Governor was absolutely positive that the person was undeserving of execution. Pilate is a sad figure to your Maximum Leader. He imagines Pilate as a world-weary man who is looking to keep the peace in a hostile environment. From what little your Maximum Leader knows of Pontius Pilate outside of the context of the Bible only reinforces your Maximum Leader’s opinion that Pilate was forced into the execution of Jesus. Your Maximum Leader has a great deal of empathy towards Pilate in the Gospel of John. The empathy is rooted in a feeling that Pilate himself felt trapped and was left with no recourse but what he did.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader, while he is expressing sympathy for Pontius Pilate will go a little further and say that he has always wondered why Pilate’s name remains in the Nicene Creed. Is it REALLY so important that the authority underwhich Jesus was crucified be recalled so permanently?)

Between Pilate asking rhetorically “What is truth?” and the washing of his hands; your Maximum Leader gets pretty worked up about the Passion.

Then there is the very language of the Gospel that discomforts your Maximum Leader… The language of two words: The Jews. The Jews cried out. The Jews wanted Barabbas. The Jews wanted Jesus dead. The Jews did it all. Your Maximum Leader is not an anti-Semitic guy. If anything your Maximum Leader is a pro-Semitic guy. So the language of the Gospel of John makes your Maximum Leader’s skin crawl. He ponders the persecution of the Jewish people throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. He thinks of the Inquisition. He thinks of the Holocaust. All because of John repeated “The Jews” over and over again. For what it is worth, your Maximum Leader asks for forgiveness every Good Friday for all the anti-Semitic things ever done that were inspired by John’s Gospel.

So, there is now, in the rear-view, Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Today there is the Easter Vigil.

Now many of your Maximum Leader’s fellow Catholics don’t like the Easter Vigil. It is too long according to most. He supposes that Catholics are conditioned to be done with Mass in about an hour. When it goes over an hour we must get fidgety. So, there are many Catholics that avoid the Easter Vigil Mass. Afterall, the Easter Vigil Mass has nine (9) readings, with singing from the Psalms between most. That adds time right there. Then add in that you will get baptisms and confirmations done too… In most parishes you are looking at 2 hrs minimum.

All that being said, the Easter Vigil Mass is your Maximum Leader’s absolute favorite Mass of the year. He’d never been to one until a few years back. After going to one he wondered why he’d never gone before. For all of the discomfort and angst that your Maximum Leader feels during the first two days of the Triduum; he really does feel good during the Easter Vigil. Everything good in the liturgical practice of the Catholic Church (and for that matter many of the Orthodox Churches) is present in this one service. It is uplifting and it does renew your Maximum Leader’s faith (such as it is…)

So there it is… A brain dump on the Holy Triduum…

Not normal fare exactly for this blog - as if there is a normal fare any more for this blog…

But there it is…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

On earth peace to those on whom His favor rests. 2013.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader bids you peace this Christmas.

Your Maximum Leader has just returned from going to Christmas Eve service with family at the Presbyterian Church in town. It was their children’s service. We have gone for many years, since the kids were very little in fact. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure we’ll be going to this particular service for much longer, as the kids -for whom the service is tailored - are growing.

There will be some last minute prep for Christmas tomorrow. Gifts to be wrapped and food to be prepped. Then it will be off to bed. Your Maximum Leader is scheduled to be a Lector at his Catholic Church tomorrow at 7 am. When Mass is finished, it will be home for breakfast and gift opening. Then your Maximum Leader’s mother, father, sister and sister’s family will come down for dinner. Dinner is, as always thanks to Mrs Villain and her slavish devotion to Christmas tradition, roast beef, yorkshire pudding, and an assortment of sides. One year your Maximum Leader would like to cook a goose. Or at least a ham… But he fears it is not to be. He can change up meals at all sorts of holidays, but Thanksgiving and Christmas are sacrosanct.

As is traditional here, your Maximum Leader will leave you with “The Adoration” by El Greco and a passage from the Gospel of Luke.

The Adoration by El Greco

And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people:
For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.
And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.

Peace and good will to you all.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

More thoughts on Syria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

(Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader)

So what’s been happening?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is sure that you are out there wondering exactly what he’s been up to since he doesn’t seem to be posting much any more….

Well… This has been a rather fun summer.

Your Maximum Leader was able to spend some time with family and take some nice day trips out to various Civil War battlefields and other National Parks around Virginia. He’s spent time trying to educate his family (by lecture and visit) about the US Civil War. He is doing this mostly because of the 150th anniversary of the conflict; not out of a great love of the period. Indeed, your Maximum Leader finds the Civil War one of the least interesting things about US history. The conflict was started to defend a bad institution. It’s outcome was a foregone conclusion; and anyone who says otherwise is wrong. Indeed, the most interesting thing about the war was that it lasted as long as it did. More competent generalship by the Union would have ended the war sooner.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader and his family did get up to Massachusetts and Rhode Island this summer as well. We visited family and various historical sites in both states. He did a lot of sight-seeing in Boston and Newport. Also, while in Rhode Island he had the somewhat sad task of burying his loving wife’s grandmother. As you might recall, “great nannie” died earlier this year at the age of 105. We arranged for a good time for as many of the family to get together to celebrate her life and to bury her in the family burying ground.

There is something comforting about the very phrase “family burying ground.” Great nannie is the latest of many generations to be laid to rest in a good-sized plot in Warwick, Rhode Island. Who knows, perhaps one day Mrs Villain and your Maximum Leader will end up there?

NB: What is interesting is that a few yards away from Mrs. Villain’s family burial plot is the plot of a number of people who share your Maximum Leader’s family name. That name is not a common one, so it was a little shocking to see so many gathered together in death in one place. Your Maximum Leader is unaware of a family connection between these people in Rhode Island and his own family (who hail from Pennsylvania actually); but there may be one. (He was asked at the funeral if he was related to the people buried there, to which he can only answer that he doesn’t know.) Also vaguely interesting is the fact that one of his maternal cousins is doing some genealogical research on that side of the family and is discovering what, for the 19th Century, seems to be a disproportionate number of college professors and murderers in the family. It seems that the men were either educated pillars of their communities, or desperate killers fleeing the law and responsibility.

Anyhoo… How about your Maximum Leader share some photos of his trip…

Lobstah Roll
A lobstah roll your Maximum Leader had upon arriving in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This is about 2-3 bites in.

Graves of British Soldiers at Concord
This is the grave of the British soldiers killed at the Old North Bridge in Concord, MA.

The Old North Bridge in Concord MA
Here is the Old North Bridge itself. Site of the “Shot Heard ’round the World.”

The Minuteman
Here is the statue of the Minuteman at the Old North Bridge.

Your Maximum Leader also spent some good time in Boston. Sadly, many of the photos there capture your Maximum Leader’s family - and in keeping with his long-standing tradition of not showing the members of his family… Most will not be shown here. But here are some others…

Boston from Fenway
Here is the Boston Skyline viewed from Fenway Park before batting practice.

Zen garden at Boston Museum of Fine Arts
The zen garden at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Santarpio’s pizza
A photo of some of the best pizza on the planet. It can be found at Santarpio’s in East Boston. Damn that stuff is good.

First Public School in US
If you walk the “Freedom Trail” you come upon this marker commemorating the location of the first public school in the nation. As your Maximum Leader believes that education is the only hope for civilization and democracy (and Mrs Villain is a teacher) this was a big deal for us to see.

Old Mass State House
Your Maximum Leader loves the contrast between old and new in this shot of the Old Massachusetts State House.

Old North Church
One if by land. Two if by sea. (And if you don’t know what your Maximum Leader is talking about, please stop now and google it.)

Old Ironsides
Old Ironsides. The oldest commissioned warship afloat. (NB: Your Maximum Leader will note that HMS Victory is the oldest commissioned warship in the world. Sadly, Nelson’s flagship is in drydock and not afloat…)

Now skipping on to Rhode Island…

Riverpoint Congregational Church, W Warwick RIThis is the Riverpoint Congregationalist Church in W. Warwick, Rhode Island. Mrs. Villain’s great-great-grandfather helped to found this church after the Civil War. It is where her Grandmother’s memorial service was held.

After the memorial service the whole family went to Point Judith and the town of Galliee. There we ate at George’s. George’s has been an institution since the ’40s and we always make it a point of going when we are anywhere nearby… Here are more gratuitous food shots…

George’s of Galliee, RI
Here is George’s…

Stuffed Lobstah
Here is the stuffed lobstah your Maximum Leader had for dinner. It is stuffed with shrimp and scallops and slathered in lobster bisque.

Maximum Leader eating
Here is your Maximum Leader stuffing his fat face with all of the stuffed lobstah. If you happen to go to George’s in the near future; you might see this photo on the wall as you go in.

Mrs. Villain & Wee Villain
Violating his rule (somewhat) here is a nice image of Mrs. Villain and the Wee Villain enjoying the sunset at Point Judith, RI and watching the Block Island Ferry head off from the port.

Marble House
While in Newport, RI, your Maximum Leader visited Marble House…

The Breakers
He also visited The Breakers…

And the last thing he did before heading back to Ole Virginny… Was to buy lobsters to steam at home off of one of these lobster boats…
Lobster Boats

Well… That is about it… Your Maximum Leader might blog more in the next few months. He says this because he’ll be spending more time in front of his computer at home… He’ll explain why in another post… Until then…

Carry on.

So much to comment upon… So little time

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

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

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

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

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

In other news…

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

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

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

In more fluffy “news”:

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

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

There you go. A link dump…

Carry on.

Various thoughts on Death

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

A blog you say…

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

So…

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

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

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

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

Anyhoo…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Francis

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that there is a new pope. Pope Francis. While your Maximum Leader was hoping for Linus II, Conon II, Lando II or (his personal favorite) Hilarius II; Francis is a good name.

In the few hours since Cardinal Bergoglio’s election (elevation?) to the rank of Supreme Pontiff, many talking heads are bloviating about “first this” and “new that.” Your Maximum Leader has decided to add his voice to the choir of idiocy.

First off, why does everyone assume that Cardinal Bergoglio chose Francis to honor Francis of Assisi? The pope was (is?) a Jesuit. Couldn’t it be Francis Xavier?

Secondly, your Maximum Leader is getting a little tired of people saying that Francis is the first non-European pope. There were popes from North Africa and the Middle East (a long long time ago admittedly). How about saying he is the first pope from the New World? Or how about the first pope from a place that wasn’t a part of the Roman Empire? That would suit your Maximum Leader better.

In terms of commentary, your Maximum Leader hopes that Francis will be an evangelist in the vein of John Paul II. He further hopes that Francis will be able to clean up the Roman Curia and bring some modernity to that institution. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t think that we will see any major changes in the theology of the Catholic Church. Don’t expect women or married priests any time soon. From what has been reported, it seems that Francis may teach compassion for the poor and tolerance of others. Both admirable traits that we would do well to emulate in our own lives.

At some level your Maximum Leader expects Pope Francis to go the way of Pope John XXIII. A short pontificate that is long on effect. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t expect a Third Vatican Council, but he wouldn’t be surprised if there was some sweeping change coming in the church. He isn’t sure just what, but he thinks something is coming.

Carry on.

Off into the sunset.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader just watched Benedict XVI fade off into the sunset over Latinum. (Is the provence surrounding Rome still called Latinum or is your Maximum Leader’s love of history playing tricks on his memory?)

Your Maximum Leader watched this spectacle mostly out of curiosity. A Pope resigning (or abdicating as your Maximum Leader thinks it should be) isn’t something that happens every day.

Does your Maximum Leader have any deep thoughts to share with you on this historic event? Sadly no. Benedict could be remembered, in some circles, for his impressive scholarship and writing. (Much of which was done before he was elevated to the Throne.) But if abdication due to failing health becomes the preferred method of leaving the papacy, he will be long remembered for how he proceeds from here on out.

In your Maximum Leader’s humble opinion, the title of “Pope Emeritus” is a little much. Wearing the white cassock also seems a little much. If it was your Maximum Leader’s call, former popes would be referred to as “Father ______” and the former pope in question could choose his papal name or his birth name. So the soon-to-be former pope would be Father Joseph or Father Benedict. Also, he should wear a simple black or brown cassock. Your Maximum Leader (intellectually) understands where they are coming from with the title and the dress; but if you are “retiring” and removing yourself from office and public life; then the most basic trappings of that life probably ought to go as well.

Anyhooo…

Now on to the Conclave and the future.

Carry on.

Some Thursday Randomness

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

Anyhooo….

Some random bloggy thoughts for you all this Thursday…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

On earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader trusts that if you are reading these words, your Christmas is very very boring.

This is, now, the lull before the storm that will be Christmas at the Villainschloss and there-bouts. Today, Saturday, December 22, was consumed by a few hours of last moment shopping. Then the wrapping of gifts began. Indeed, most of the gifts are wrapped right now. A few stragglers remain. (They shall be dealt with tomorrow.)

In an hour or so, friends of your Maximum Leader’s children will descend on the Villainschloss. They will be fed and then we will trek up to Washington DC to see the National Christmas tree on the Ellipse near the White House. Your Maximum Leader is the only parent who will do the drive apparently, and he believes in letting as many people share the joy of the season as possible.

Tomorrow your Maximum Leader will go to church (where he has been a lector now for about a year - though he doesn’t read every Sunday or Holy Day). Then the rest of the day will be cleaning and preparing the schloss for visits.

Your Maximum Leader’s sainted in-laws arrive on Monday. Monday evening the whole extending family here in Fredericksburg will go to the Presbyterian Church for services (where your Maximum Leader’s niece and nephew will perform in the holiday pageant). Then it will be over to his Brother & Sister-in-law’s house for dinner. Your Maximum Leader’s family will need to depart early, as he is lectoring at church on Christmas day.

So, your Maximum Leader will be up Christmas Day at 5:45am so that he can prepare the family to go to church. He is reading at the 7am mass. Then it is home for gifts and stockings. Then will come the cooking. Dinner is, as always, roast beef, yorkshire pudding, roasted potatoes and two green veggies. (This year the veggies are likely to be green beans and asparagus.) Then there will be pies…

Your Maximum Leader wishes you and yours a happy Christmas.
The Adoration by El Greco

And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people:
For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.
And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.

Peace and good will to you all.

Carry on.

Don’t mess with Benedictines

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been remarkably tedious in his constant commenting that he has things to blog about, but very little time to do so. Well… One of the items that your Maximum Leader has meant to blog about for a while now has wound up in the Washington Post.

Your Maximum Leader is a careful donor of what money he sets aside for charity. One of the entities to which your Maximum Leader tries to give some money every year is the Institute for Justice. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t know if you have ever seen, or clicked through, the link on the right side navigation for the Institute for Justice, but it is there. IJ is a small law firm that fights for economic freedom in America. They got the most press when the, very sadly, lost the infamous Kelo vs. New Haven, CT case concerning eminent domain. Your Maximum Leader believes that IJ was right in its position in Kelo, and the US Supreme Court was very very wrong…

Anyhoo…

The Institute for Justice continues to fight for economic freedom and private property. Now their the face of their most recent fight are Benedictine monks in Louisiana who are trying to sell coffins. The story has made the front page of the Washington Post Online: Louisiana monks go to court to sell caskets.

The basic facts are these. The Benedictines want to sell caskets in their home state; but they were given cease and desist orders before selling their first casket. In Louisiana, only licensed funeral parlors (with funeral directors) can sell caskets. Louisiana law does, however, allow people to buy caskets on-line and use them. The IJ is fighting for the monks on the grounds that Louisiana’s regulations are irrational and unconstitutional (on due process and equal protection grounds).

Your Maximum Leader wishes that there was a particular passage he could cite here to give you the heart of the story, but there really isn’t. You should just go and read the Washington Post piece (clicky here). Or, if you want you can go over to the Institute for Justices’ web site and read their page on this case which has lots of good links and information.

Your Maximum Leader would also commend the Institute for Justice to you if you consider giving to advocacy organizations. This is a good one. You can donate to IJ by clicking here.

Read it all.

Carry on.

Thoughtlessness

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader must have the issues where there is a difficult confluence of religious and political debates on the mind. Perhaps it is that Lent is upon us. Perhaps it is just because these issues seem to be front and center in our current political dialogue. Thanks to the GOP Presidential primaries and HHS mandates there is a lot of Church/State discussion. But it is another area of the Church/State discussion on which your Maximum Leader would like to expound.

If you have been following news about Virginia recently you will know that the General Assembly has been moving on a bill that would require women to get an ultrasound before getting an abortion. That bill has come under heavy scrutiny because the language of the bill can be interpreted (rightfully one can argue) as possibly requiring a vaginal ultrasound before a woman can get an abortion. (The story of the moment is that VA Governor Bob McDonnell has gone from strong supporter of the bill to a man uncommitted to sign it.)

Now, your Maximum Leader is not going to comment on abortion or abortion restrictions in this post. What he would like to comment upon is his long-standing disgust at thoughtlessness in lawmaking.

Long-time readers will know that your Maximum Leader is not a fan of the Patriot Act. He has never been a supporter of the Patriot Act. He felt it was rushed through Congress without consideration paid to unintended consequences. What is happening in Virginia is a more glaring example of this same situation.

For those of you who do not know, and your Maximum Leader suspects that might be many of you, the Virginia legislature is a part-time legislature. The legislators serve for 60 or 90 days a year (depending on the year). They have a full-time staff, the Office of Legislative Services. The job of the staff is to help write laws, research existing laws that might be affected by new laws, and generally to think through consequences of potential legislation if it were to be enacted.

This abortion law under debate in Richmond appears to have been a) poorly drafted; b) poorly researched; or c) incompletely thought through. A combination of those three failings is also possible.

This drives your Maximum Leader nuts. As he sees it, either the sponsors of the bill ignored the (non-partisan) staff and went ahead with the bill in the form it was introduced; or the staff did a crappy job of vetting the bill. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure which it is; but either of these scenarios is bad.

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t care that legislatures are (in general) slow to act. But he does care that they aren’t (generally) deliberative any more. This lack of deliberativeness (or perhaps the inability of most elected officials to actually deliberate) is as much a danger to our nation as any enemy - foreign or domestic.

Carry on.

Church/State and health care

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader and Mrs Villain had a big blow-up the other day. The root cause of this tiff? The President’s health care mandate that Catholic employers provide (by hook or by crook) insurance coverage for contraception, abortion inducing drugs and sterilization.

Your Maximum Leader’s position is rather close to that of his friend FLG (who’s post you should read). This is to say that Catholic employers should be given a broad exemption based on their long-held beliefs. The number of individual Catholics who disagree with church teachings on these matters is largely immaterial.

Mrs Villain’s point is that having insurance coverage for a particular drug or procedure doesn’t mean you have to take advantage of a potentially offensive drug or procedure and therefore the mandate is really harmless to those who care and a boon to those that don’t.

Your Maximum Leader attempted to make a favorite point of his, namely that if his money is going to pay for a thing he would like input into how that money is spent. This argument most often comes up when he and Mrs Villain are discussing school curricula and how it is made. (Your Maximum Leader arguing that if public dollars are spend on education, then the political process must be involved in making the curricula. That doesn’t make the process neat, efficient or even sensible; but it is a requirement.) Anyhow, our conversation deteriorated quickly and we broke to our own corners and tabled the discussion indefinitely.

The point that your Maximum Leader would have liked to make as well, but didn’t have the chance to, was that the Catholic Church will eventually lose out on this argument all together and will wind up having to pay for insurance coverage that offends their moral teachings. Furthermore, in the foreseeable future when there is a single payer system in place in the United States, Catholic hospitals will be forced to close, be sold to other entities, or will just have to knuckle under and actually perform abortions and sterilizations because the government will require them to do so. The Catholic Church (and most any other civil institution) cannot, in the long run, stand up to the power of the government leviathan.

Carry on.

Rejoice!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes you all a very Merry Christmas (and he’ll do it now in case he doesn’t get around to blogging again for a day or two).

Adoration by El Greco

Carry on.

St. Andrew’s Day

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader should note that in addition to it being Winston Churchill’s birthday, it is also Saint Andrew’s Day. Thus we have a triple whammy of events. The anniversary of the birth of the Great Man himself. The national holiday of Scotland (the home of many of your Maximum Leader’s ancestors). And the religious celebration of Saint Andrew the Apostle.

So, if you need instruction on how to commemorate the day… You should go to church, drink scotch and be bitter and humourless.

Carry on.

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