By the Pricking of My Thumbs, Something Screwed Up this Way Comes

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader apologizes if you have had trouble reading or commenting on this site. There was some crazy screwed up crap going on behind the scenes of which he was not aware until today. He believes he used his (meagre) coding skilz to correct the problem.

Your forbearance is appreciated.

Carry on.

100 Below: Uh Oh Part Deux

The worst part of the zombie apocalypse was the fatigue.

It wasn’t hard to pot the hooting inhuman undead as they limped bloodshod up the farm lane.

But they came at irregular intervals, mandating constant vigilance. How could a man sleep?

Plus, the cow still needed milking.

He shouldered his rifle and climbed down from the barn cupola-come-sniper’s nest.

It was odd that Bonnie didn’t issue her welcoming moo.

Entering the stall, he saw why.

Dismembered bovine. Empty skull. Intestine-festooned manger.

It came from behind: Baaaaaas surging past bitter cuds and froth-corrupted lips.

Zombie sheep.


“Knock Down” and RPG dates

When the Smallholder “quotes” me about the Indian Jones RPG… he always gets the date wrong.

While the Soviets did have an early type of RPG during WW2, the one Indy grabs is a later version, the RPG-7 IIRC….

Knock down! (?)
This is just a term that is used… without wiki’ing anything, bigger slower bullets transfer kinetic energy to flesh better than small fast ones… and the .45 is a big slow one.

Is this navel gazing or what? We are comparing real life ballistics to what freakin’ Hollywood shows us on the silver screen???


Hollywood does things for effect, not accuracy. They sell tickets, not textbooks. Even when they are trying to be historical, its hysterical.

If you want accuracy (pardon the pun) watch a British film. If you want fantasy pistol shots that are deadly accurate at 300 yards, never having to replenish an empty magazine (or even switching to a full mag) than watch any Hollywood movie.

And have you noticed that, despite the fact that those in Hollywood despise firearms, they can’t seem to make a movie without glorifying them (guns) in someway?

The Smallholder called last night and we talked and talked and talked….

We even talked about getting older… which was probably the SH’s way of saying, “Hey friend, aren’t you gonna wish me a Happy Birthday????”

The reality is that I have my Microsoft Outlook set up to “remind” me that SH’s birthday was April 28th… and it reminded me so incessantly that i turned it off 4 days ago and it slipped my mind when he called.

Sorry buddy… Happy Birthday!!!!!

Back to the Trenches…..

Relief, Horror, and Questions

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure that he has a single cogent line of thought to put down in this forum. But he will write regardless. Read on at your own risk.

Your Maximum Leader has many connections to Virginia Tech. His saintly father graduated from Virginia Tech (back in the day when it was known as VPI (short for the full offical name of the school, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University). Your Maximum Leader’s lovely wife, Mrs Villain, is a Virginia Tech graduate. She was, during her time at Tech, an RA in East Ambler Johnston Hall. Mrs Villain’s sister (and your Maximum Leader’s very dear Sister-in-law) is a Tech graduate as well. His Sister-in-law lived on the 4th floor of West Ambler Johnston hall - where the first killings took place. Of course, as was mentioned earlier in this space, your Maximum Leader’s dear friend (and co-blogger here) the Air Marshal has multiple degrees from Tech.

In addition to these connections there are many others. Many current students at Tech are the children of friends. One student at Tech is very dear to your Maximum Leader and his family. Stephanie - now a junior at Tech - was our long-time babysitter during her time in high school (and when we were lucky - during breaks from Tech). We confirmed late last night with her parents that she wasn’t on campus at all during the time of the shootings. She was in Roanoke, VA. That was joyous news.

There is relief in knowing that, for your Maximum Leader’s immedate circle at least, the killer did not harm anyone known to us. Like the Smallholder, your Maximum Leader asks that you continue to pray for Heidi Miller. She appears to be recovering from her physical wounds.

One must pray that she also heals the psychological wounds that will follow this horrific event.

Just when one might reasonably expect to start dealing with this tragedy, something new horrifies us. As you have no doubt read by now, the killer sent a rambling manifesto as well as video clips of his rants to NBC news. Now we see with our own eyes and hear with our own ears the deep hatred in this psychotic.

Mrs Villain and your Maximum Leader had a long discussion about the killer. Much of it centered on new information we are learning. We know now that the killer was remanded by a judge to a mental hospital for observation. We have learned that the killer was known to the Tech Campus Police as one who had had multiple complaints filed against him. We know how he was known by other students to be disturbed and out of the ordinary.

During our conversation, as is also happening in our national conversation, Mrs Villain wanted to know why the university didn’t do more.

If he has not mentioned it before, your Maximum Leader, during his undergraduate years, was deeply involved in his campus judicial system. An interesting tradition among many schools in the southern United States, is the preponderance of student-run judicial and/or honor systems. At his school, your Maximum Leader was the Chairman of a student run (and popularly elected) committee of students who’s responsibility it was to enforce a published judicial code. During his years as Chairman he became very involved in many aspects of the whole campus judical and law-enforcement process. One of the things he learned during those years was that unless someone does something wrong - and you have some agent willing to act as an accuser; it is hard to take pre-emptive action against someone you think may pose a threat. In many cases a university cannot act against someone because that person, while creepy, disturbed, or maladjusted hasn’t actually done anything that violates a rule. So far, in the case of the killer at Virginia Tech, it appears that he didn’t break a rule. (Although there are reports that one young woman who claimed she was stalked by the killer refused to press charges - thereby averting a possible disciplinary case.)

Your Maximum Leader is somewhat astonished that in the case of the killer at Virginia Tech, a local judge actually had remanded the boy to an institution for evaluation. He is sure that this aspect of the past will get much more coverage and attention over the next few days.

All in all your Maximum Leader isn’t sure what University officials could have done that wasn’t done. He says this knowing what he knows now… He’ll leave open the possibility of revision as more facts become known.

The one abiding question your Maximum Leader has, as do many in the blogosphere, is why no students attempted to subdue the killer. Your Maximum Leader has seen interviews and read accounts of some students who heard the killer stop to reload. He wonders why no one tried to rush him at that point. Of course, one never knows how one would react in such a situation. Your Maximum Leader cannot fault any student for their reaction to being in a shooting. Perhaps, as other commenters have noted, there is an unconscious (or even genetic) reponse in us. Fight or fly. Some may be predisposed towards one or the other. He doesn’t know.

There are many other questions, many of which will be answered in time. The questions that will probably not be answered are the ones that try to figure out what made the killer do what he did. The ghastly video and still images don’t shed any light on that, and it is doubtful that they ever will. If your Maximum Leader was NBC News president, he doesn’t think he’d have broadcast the images. Let someone else do it. There is no need to fall in line behind the narcisisstic desires of a deranged killer.

Your Maximum Leader thinks he is going to have to switch off the news coverage of these killings, except to check on the status of the survivors and to learn the names and faces of the dead. As he learns the names, he can add them to his prayers.

Carry on.

Giovanni Poem


We are Virginia Tech
We are sad today and we will be sad for quite a while
We are not moving on
We are embracing our mourning

We are Virginia Tech
We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly
We are brave enough to bend to cry
and sad enough to know we must laugh again

We are Virginia Tech
We do not understand this tragedy
We know we did nothing to deserve it
But neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS
Neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by a rogue army
Neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory
Neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water
Neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night
In his crib in the home his father built with his own hands
Being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized

No one deserves a tragedy

We are Virginia Tech
The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands
To those who offer their hearts and minds
We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid
We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be
We are alive to the imagination and the possibility
We will continue to invent the future
Through our blood and tears
Through all this sadness

We are the Hokies
We will prevail
We will prevail
We will prevail
We are Virginia Tech

- Nikki Giovanni, 4/17/2007


Virginia Tech

I’m an alum of Virginia Tech. Undergrad class of 1991, and I returned for Grad school. Left Blacksburg in 1998 with a PhD in engineering.

Years ago I took a class in Dynamics from Dr. Librescu, and now he’s dead, one of the victims of the shooting. During my time in Blacksburg, I had many classes in Norris hall.

Words completely fail in this case, so I won’t even try.

My thoughts and prayers are in Blacksburg today.


Pray for Heidi

For those of you with a religious bent.

Christian dogma is a difficult thing. You can give thanks for survival and pray for recovery.

But not hating? It is quite hard.

Your humble Smallholder is a ball of rage right about now. I’m being quite the hypocrite - praying and seething at the same time. If a bit of distance lets you pray with a glad heart, please do so.

Happy 419th, Thomas.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader almost forgot to press publish on this post. You’ve likely read it before (as your Maximum Leader has posted this post annually), but he is posting it again…

Your Maximum Leader’s favourite political philosopher was born on April 5th, 1588.

Thomas Hobbes was born (as mentioned a moment ago), in April 1588. His premature birth to a Vicar’s wife in Westport (near Malmesbury), Gloucestershire, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I coincided with the threat of the Spanish Armada. Hobbes was later to comment that his mother gave birth to twins “myself and fear” that year.

Thomas’ father died when Thomas was young, and the young Hobbes was sent to live with a nearby uncle. Eventually, Hobbes left his uncle and secured an education at Oxford. He became a mathematics tutor to the powerful Cavendish family (who were the Earl’s of Devonshire), and eventually a tutor to Charles Stuart (later King Charles II of Great Britain).

Hobbes’ first published work was a translation of Thucydides “History of the Peloponnesian War.” He also published a number of mathematical treatises. But, for the sake of this blog, your Maximum Leader will focus on Hobbes’ political treatise, “Leviathan.” Hobbes published a number of political tracts, but they are all variations on the same set of political beliefs. Of these “Leviathan” is both best known, and most comprehensive.

In “Leviathan,” Hobbes creates a logical model of human nature, the nature of consent to government, and the authority of government. His opening chapters set out in detail the physiological elements of human action. While they are dated by our thinking today, they still accurately depict the modus operandi of human activity. It is when Hobbes begins to discuss human motivation that he begins in earnest his philosophical discourse.

To Hobbes, man is motivated by “appetites” and “aversions.” We act to acquire things we desire, and seek to avoid thing we do not desire or will cause us harm. Human appetites are constant, insatiable, and vary in degree from man to man. Man, therefore, has the power to act of his own accord to satisfy his appetites and avoid his aversions. Man acts to bring the greatest possible good to himself, using the means and methods at his disposal. In order to bring the greatest possible good to himself, man must acquire power over others.

To Hobbes there are two types of power, original (also called natural) power, and instrumental (also called acquired) power. Original power is that power that comes from the man himself. His physical strength is the clearest examples of a man’s original, or natural, power. But also considered an original power is man’s intellect and brain-power (if you will). Instrumental powers are those that flow from their acquisition. They include money, fame, reputation, and everyone’s favourite, God’s favour (or good luck as we might call it).

Having established the nature of man, and defined man’s power, Hobbes starts to get really interesting. He asserts that the exercise or acquisition of power by one man naturally hinders or limits the exercise or acquisition of power by another man. Given that man’s appetites are insatiable; this puts man in an uncomfortable position of always being at odds with other men.

Hobbes then begins to postulate on the nature of the state. First he envisions the state of nature. That is the condition where there is no state or governmental structure that will confine the passions of individual men. That state is the condition of war by all against all. Or to use the famous quotation:

In such condition there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, the continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.

Of course, no man wants this kind of life. Man has an appetite for life, and the acquisition of power. Man is also a rational creature and will seek to avoid violent death. This rational aversion to death, is essentially man’s natural right. By limiting the extent to which a man will use his power over other men, he will, himself, enter a state of peace with other men. This is the essence of Hobbes’ social contract. All men, seeing the benefits of peace with other men, will voluntarily, or tacitly as the case may be, limit his own freedom to do whatever he will to whomever he will.

Of course, when one enters into a contract (by agreement, assent, or in the case of man in society – by birth) one is obliged or bound to agree to the terms of the contract. Once a man ceases to be obliged or bound, the fabric of the contract begins to erode, and the state of nature will arise.

Hobbes, at this point, constructs a model of a sovereign state. While he may have seemed to profess a preference for monarchy, closer reading of “Leviathan” shows that a parliamentary system would also be perfectly acceptable. For Hobbes the institutions of the sovereign state are not quite as important as the role of the sovereign state. The first job of the state is to protect the property of its citizens. As every man has a significant interest in the property of his own body, the protection of the lives of men is the most important role of a state. After protection of the body, protection of a man’s riches (possessions) and his means of living are the chief functions of the state. And a state that preserves a man’s life and property is, ultimately, a just state.

Within the context of the state, men have different obligations, based on their different appetites and abilities. Generally, those with more are bound to support the state more. Hobbes describes, for example, a tax code by which those with more pay more, based on how much he consumes in society. (Taxes, for Hobbes, are the price you pay for your very life.) Hobbes also establishes a system of justice based on contracts and rule of law.

Hobbes spends considerable energy in “Leviathan” discussing Scripture. Many facile and superficial readers of “Leviathan” assume that he is doing this to reinforce the authority of the state. Ergo: God orders you to obey legitimate civil authority, therefore one must always obey the dictates of the state. But this is not Hobbes’ goal. He uses Scripture, in many cases, to support his revolutionary idea of a state that gets is legitimate authority to rule, not from God, but from the consent of the governed. A common misinterpretation of Hobbes’ work is that he was justifying the Divine Right of Kings to rule. He was not. He wouldn’t have gone through such an elaborate explanation of the nature of man and the causes of a state to then fall back on Romans 13.

Hobbes’ great work, “Leviathan” details much more about the nature of the state, just rule, and the nature of man. But alas, this medium (the blog) doesn’t always lend itself to a lengthy exposition on a single topic. Your Maximum Leader wanted to take a moment and expound a little on this great man, who very much influenced his political thought.

Carry on

Whiskey … an American tradition

Old news, but worth a mention, since the party is next weekend. They’re making Whiskey again at Mount Vernon. The opening celebration is March 31-April 1. And this is in the area that MaxLeader, SmallHolder and I grew up in. So if you’re in the DC area, try to make it.

Now, I love whiskey as much as the next guy. Scratch that. I probably love whiskey more than the next guy. But I love this sentence from the linked article.

The festive family fun event includes Colonial games, early-American music, cornhusk doll-making, open-hearth cooking, and spinning demonstrations.

Yes, the opening of a distillery is exactly what I think of when I ask myself what I want for family fun. What am I doing with my daughters this weekend? Why not take them to a distillery.

All Hail Polymath

My good friend Polymath has a blog. Go check it out.

His philosophy seems to be in step with most of our blogospheric buddies (i.e. to the right of your humble Smallholder).

Despite the fact that he’s wrong (see above), he is a good man. When the Zombies rise, the Maximum Leader and I will surely be recruiting him for our survivalist team. He is, as he says in his opening post, a jack-of-all-trades. Also importantly, he shoots voles. Voles. Little teeny-tiny voles. I’m happy if I can hit a groundhog four times out of five.

Polymath is probably also the reason why I’m on my state representative’s crackpot list. He inspired me to write a letter asking that the law banning the distillation of hard alcohol be repealed. I wrote this on the heels of a previous letter asking for my representatives to support a bill that would have allowed small farmers to sell milk directly to consumers. So I’m the alcohol/dairy libertarian nut.

If you have noticed your humble Smallholder trending toward small-l libertarianism over the last four years, Polymath is partially responsible. He makes good arguments.

UPDATE: Thanks to those of you who noticed that my cutting and pasting had garbled this post. I have now fixed it. I’m sorry that my poor English skills offended our readers’ eyes by creating a sentence lacking a verb. But what do you expect from an agrarian?

Separated At Birth?


Sincerest apologies to Mr. Jeremy. Still, one has to wonder if Mr. Mohammed is comparitively gifted.

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Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

Chicken Soup for the Foreign Minister’s Soul

The Foreign Minister is a bit despondent over the outcome of the November elections. I tried to buck him up a bit over the phone, but will expand on those initial thoughts in this post.

Why the midterm defeat is good for the Republicans

The “Republican” majority of 2006 had become unmoored from their original principles, particularly the principle of fiscally responsible limited government. The Republicans in power were spending money like a Kennedy in a liquor shop. Kool-aid drinking apologists liked to argue that things would have been worse under Democrats. Even if that was true, it certainly is faint praise. I’d argue that it isn’t true because the Republican attempt to buy a permanent majority through pork-barrel spending was unprecedented. Democrats might like to emulate that model (though for less Machiavellian reasons - many liberals actually believe government spending can ameliorate all of society’s ills), but the simple fact is that Democratic incompetence partially vaccinates society from their spendthrift ways. The electoral debacle will hopefully convince Republican leaders that pork isn’t the Holy Grail. Even if they don’t really believe in fiscal responsibility, the thumpin’ might make them fiscally responsible out of self-preservation. I’m not sure if the right is interpreting the election in this matter, but one has to hope that the election returns will make it easier for deficit hawks to navigate party primaries.

The election may also serve as  check on the Christian Right’s overreach. The Maximum Leader linked to a silly little political poll a few days ago. One of the questions was about whether the Christian Right was a threat to democracy. I answered that it wasn’t - which artificially burnished my “conservative” score, but actually reflected my faith that the electorate has and will reject the more dangerous theocon ideology. While many Americans are disquieted about abortion, some on the Christian Right (an odd term - as if it was a monolithic movement) have wrongly interpreted this as support for a broader “culture of life agenda.” We saw this rampant, arrogant idiocy in full panoply over Terri Schiavo - and most Americans realized that the theocon agenda could affect their own personal end-of-life decisions. When the theocons made their torturously illogical case against stem-cell research*, Americans realized that the agenda could affect Dad’s diabetes treatment. Many Americans have a family member who has Alzheimer’s. If the Republican party continued down that restrictive road, they would be heading for a cliff. The Foreign Minister should be happy for a chance to stop his party for a map consultation.

The American public’s attention span is short and its memory is shorter. In 2006, Americans looked around at governmental profligacy and incompetence and said, “Throw the bums out.” By 2008, many Americans will be ready to throw Pelosi’s bums out. Much better to loose a midterm and keep the Presidency than to postpone the reckoning to a quadrennial election cycle.

Speaking of Pelosi, she’s a godsend to the Republican Party. Not only is she easily caricatured; she is shaping up to be a weak party leader. The Alcee Hastings and Jack Murtha fiascos aren’t just illustrative of willful stupidity. They are illustrative of a woman who isn’t fully in control. I liked George Will’s mortally incisive question: “Can you imagine Tip O’Neil whining that he couldn‚Äö?Ñ?¥t be an effective leader if the caucus didn’t accede to the appointment of his favored lieutenant?” Can you imagine Tip O’Neil losing a vote in his own caucus? Pelosi is going to be a train wreck for the Democrats. The Kos kids can delude themselves about a long-term power shift all they want. The pendulum could easily swing back to a chastened Republican party made wise by its time in the wilderness.

Finally, and most importantly, the shift to the Democrats will spread the blame for the Republican-led Iraqi catastrophe.

Let me be clear. I supported the war. I think the war was just. I think the world is a better place with Saddam in the ground.

But the delusional mismanagement, failure to build long-term support, willful refusal to take military advice, partisan appointments of reconstruction officials, planning failures, and bone-headed stubbornness of the Bush administration have doomed the venture to CATASTROPHE (note the bold all-caps). A good outcome in Iraq is no longer a possibility. We are now in 1970-contain-the-damage mode, and this damage will be much harder to contain than the Vietnam blowback.

But! Think about how America perceives Vietnam. A good proportion of the American public truly believes that we lost Vietnam because of that dad gum lib’ral press.

In 2006, the majority of Americans understand that Bush is responsible for the Pottery Barn mess. By 2008, their short-term memory will leave them open to the idea that things were going swimmingly. If only those dad gum lib’ral mainstream media types and Nancy Pelosi had just listened to George Bush and stayed the course, Iraq would be a utopia! I, as the say, gay-run-tee that 2008 will see ads accusing the Dems of losing the war. This can only be good for the Republicans. Cries of “cut and run” can be easily used to shift the blame. Heck, if I was a Carvillesque partisan hack, I would have told my fellow Dems to take a knee in this election and let the Republicans marinate in their own Iraqi juice.

Finally, a true conservative ought to applaud deadlock. Hopefully Bush will oppose the Democrats and the Democrats will block Bush‚Äö?Ñ?¥s proposals ‚Äö?Ñ?¨ and fewer laws will get passed.


* I refer to the tortuously illogical case that the use of stem cells destined for incineration constituted murder while at the same time failing to condemn the fertility treatments that create fertilized ova/fetuses, many of whom (or which if you are of the no life at conception persuasion) will never be implanted. Of those that are implanted, the vast majority will not take. A dozen fertilized eggs are typically used to get one viable pregnancy, causing eleven deaths for one life (insert quotation marks around ‚Äö?Ñ??deaths‚Äö?Ñ?? if you are of the fetuses-are-just-tumors-without-moral-claims persuasion). I have seen some anti-fertility Catholic commentary and explicitly exempt those folks from the torturously illogical charge. But for all of those folks who stayed mum on the process that created fetuses destined to be discarded and then piously condemned researchers who wanted to save lives through medical research, I say: Bah!

Interesting Election… no doubt

Sorry I haven’t posted in awhile.
Its been a crazy summer/autumn. I broke and ankle, moved house (to a new location in Germany) and had to fight the German telecoms to get a decent internet and phone connection.


I will try to be a better minister…. really!

For Sadie

David Hasselhoff: Jedi Knight

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