Egg Rolls

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was quite hungry when he came home tonight. His appetite was enhanced as soon as he entered the Villainschloss. Mrs. Villain was cooking chicken on the range-top in an iron skillet. In a large non-stick skillet, she was sauteing some veggies. Into the veggie mixture went some white vino, and some creme of chicken soup, and a touch of sour cream. Eventually the chicken was plated, drenched in sauce, and served with a side of tater tots and green beans.

(NB: Someone remind their Maximum Leader to write about tater tots.)

All in all, dinner was lovely. Quite tasty and filling.

But throughout it all, all your Maximum Leader wanted was egg rolls. Shrimp egg rolls. He wanted them so badly he contemplated calling the local take-away place and ordering a dozen or so shrimp egg rolls to have (by himself) for dinner.

The craving is still upon him, but greatly diminished. Perhaps later this week it may happen.

Carry on.

TWP - Cold Water

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that the Bridget/Ms. Abercrombie writing prompt for today is to describe a time he went into cold water.

Allow your Maximum Leader to say that he generally avoids truly cold water. He recalls reading, perhaps in Lady Longford’s biography of the Duke of Wellington, that the Iron Duke (long before he was the Iron Duke) started his day with a bath of ice water. Or very cold water at the least. Your Maximum Leader is not one of those that enjoys the cold water first thing in the morning. Or really at just about any time. The last time he recalls an encounter with truly cold water was a number of years ago when he walked into the Atlantic Ocean in November. He didn’t go all the way in. He was in shorts and took off his shoes and walked out into the surf up to his knees. The air temperature was mild, perhaps in the 60s Fahrenheit. (15C for those of you using the metric system.) The water was not so mild. It might have only been in the high 30s Fahrenheit. (3C for you metric people.) He recalls the needle-like feelings all up and down his calves from the water. Then he recalls the numbing. He wondered how long it might take for his toes to turn blue. He didn’t stay in the water for long. But trudged back out onto the beach. Put his shoes back on. And walked on.

Your Maximum Leader much prefers the civilised choice of warm or hot water. He probably over-heats his water for showers. He isn’t as bad as he used to be, where if his skin color wasn’t just a few shades lighter than a steamed lobster it wasn’t hot enough. But he does like his warm shower. It is funny. In the morning a hot shower is invigorating. But at night the same water can be soothing and relaxing. He wonders why that is. It is probably all in his head…

Anyhoo…

There is the cold water prompt.

Carry on.

TWP - 3 Sentences

Greetings, loyal minions.

Today’s writing prompt was “Write three sentences. They don’t have to connect. They don’t even have to make sense. Just three sentences.”

Here you go:

The Washington Capitals/New York Rangers game is on the TV and is very close.
Today’s Oglaf.com cartoon amused me greatly.
The ham and bean soup I started to make yesterday (and hoped to eat for dinner last night) seems like it is ready to be eaten for dinner tonight.

And a bonus sentence:

I wish it would just stop raining for a week or two.

Carry on.

TWP - The Wall

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is more active on the Twitter than he has been here on his very own blog. This, if you are reading this, you know. On the Twitter (by the way, he is @maximumleader), he follows Bridget Phetasy. (She is @bridgetphetasy.) He really enjoys Bridget’s writing. She is a fascinating person. He would be reluctant to try to describe her simply. He will recommend that if you are interested in learning more about her, just go to her Twitter feed. She is open about herself - sometimes your Maximum Leader finds she is uncomfortably open about herself. Anyhow… Check her out. If you like what you read, consider becoming on of her patrons via Patreon. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure why he decided to follow Bridget on Patreon, but he did. He’s not regretted it at all. And that brings us to this post.

In late 2017, Bridget exhorted her followers to write. Your Maximum Leader decided his blog was moribund and decided to try to write more. He wrote a few posts that he titled “The Writing Project.” Well… They didn’t go all that well. A few days ago, Bridget started to offer writing prompts and asked that those who were inclined to do so try and write according the prompts. Your Maximum Leader, though he will be dropping the 3rd person shtick that you’ve all grown to know and love, is trying to do as he’s been exhorted to do…

The writing prompt was thus:

“Write an intention, a new way to look at the block or wall that’s keeping you from writing, or a plan to ignore it an move on. Maybe you have a description of a formidable wall, or a negative monologue, or maybe just random words scattered on the page. It doesn’t matter, as long as you write something, anything, for five minutes. Could your wall also be giving you privacy and protection? Or maybe you need to blast a hole in it or dynamite it to smithereens. It’s your wall; you decide how to handle it.”

This prompt came from Kicking In The Wall by Barbara Abercombie. Though the prompt calls for five minutes of writing, at Bridget’s exhortation, Your Maximum Leader will go for 15 or 25 minutes. As always, what he writes would be better served by having an editor. Here we go:

What is (or was) it that effectively ended my regular blogging? I used to write about anything that popped into my mind. Then nothing? What the hell happened?

The easy answer would be life. Family with growing kids. Marriage. Work. You know (or perhaps you don’t) the regular stuff. But upon reflection it might have been a combination of three things. Those things are (in no particular order): Twitter, Self-confidence, and laziness. Allow me to expound on this…

I use Twitter. That gawd-awful shithole of a social media site. It was billed as “micro-blogging” at one point. Rather than the format in front of your eyes right this moment, Twitter was better. It was short and fast. 140 characters or less and your idea was out there. Shouted (or whispered in my case) into the ether for anyone to consume. It was instantaneous gratification. It was (and is) easy to do from your computer, from your phone, from a table. You name it, it is easy to use Twitter. How fricken hard can 140 (and now upgraded to 240) characters be? Not hard at all is the answer. And anyone can “like” your post. Or they can respond to your post. Or they can retweet your post to others. Twitter is an easy way to communicate the most basic short idea that you can have. You just put it all out there. A tweet takes almost no time. It take almost no effort. It demands almost no reflection. It just satisfies an urge. And it satisfies an urge in the worst way possible. You have an idea. You formulate that idea into a sentence. You type the sentence. You tweet it out. Once the tweet is sent, you feel like you have actually done something. You have shared an idea. You have created. The problem is that you have really just thrown some crap into the ether and hope that someone reads it. Thanks to all the algorithms that Twitter uses you can’t really be sure that anyone actually did see it (without getting some feedback on the tweet). But, you “feel” like you have done something. Also, if you read something on Twitter that strikes your fancy, you can hit that heart-shaped “Like” button. That, too, feels like really doing something. I “liked” that other person’s thought. I’ve co-opted that thought as something I “like” so in some small way you can lay claim to it. Even better, you can retweet something someone else tweets. You can even add your own comment to something you retweet. That is even more fulfilling. You are taking someone else’s thought and amplifying it in your own way. All these things feel like creation, and to some extent they are. But they are a cheap and easy type of creation that doesn’t require a train of thought. It doesn’t really require the discipline of writing lots of words together in a way that someone else could read and understand. In my mind, Twitter became a substitute for writing here. So this place languished. It just happened organically. As long as I have Twitter, I don’t think I’ll blog here like I used to. That does make me a little sad. It also leads to the second point…

I wonder about my self-confidence sometimes. By this I mean, who wants to read this shite (as my Scottish ancestors might have said)? What difference or point is there to adding another voice to the cacophony of voices? What on earth could I have to say that would amount to anything in this crazy world. I don’t know where this lacking of confidence may have come from. It isn’t apparent in the writing here from 2003 to 2015. But it is there now. Perhaps it is the times we are living through. What the hell is going on in the world? I called myself a “conservative Republican” from 1981 until about 2008. From 2008 until 2017 I started calling myself a “conservative.” Now I’m not sure how even to label myself. What am I trying to conserve? I flirted with “conservatarian” for a time. That odd term that is a hybrid of “conservative” and “libertarian.” It fits in a lot of ways. I think I am both a social and economic conservative. But I recognise that we live in a pluralistic society where civil people can agree to disagree. That is the root of my “libertarian” streak. I like freedom. I like liberty. I want you to like both of them as well. I want us to have as much of both as possible. But I also believe that the nature of mankind is generally bad and that we need restrictions on liberty. We need a society of laws. I would like as few laws as needed to have an ordered society in which we can all just get along. But sadly, this broad description of my own philosophy seems to run against the current trends on what we currently refer to as the “right” and the “left.” Both sides seem to enjoy namecalling, “sick burns” on social media, tribalism, and living in their own echo chambers. Both sides also are so gleefully and unabashedly hypocritical in their politics that it has finally gotten to me. I say finally because I’ve known politics make people hypocrites for my whole life. But I could put it aside to advance my side. Now it just upsets me. And there is the root of why this causes me not to write. I don’t want to participate in what passes for debate now. It isn’t debate. It isn’t discourse. I don’t know what it is really. It disappoints me and leads to a feeling that what I have to say is meaningless and without much value. If you don’t think what you might write has value, there isn’t much purpose in committing the words in your head to the ether for anyone to read…

The last point is one most people can wrap their heads around easily. It is easier not to write than it is to write. It is a lot easier for me to sit down in my comfy leather chair with a extra nice bourbon on the side table next to me than it is for me to write. I can sit in my chair and watch a game (mostly hockey and baseball) on TV. Or watch a stupid television show. Or perhaps read a book. It is easier to do any of those things than it is to write. I can justify my laziness as “relaxing” after a “hard day of life.” But it is just lazy. I used to enjoy writing. When I do it, I still enjoy it. But it is a shit-ton easier to sit and have a drink and not write.

So what is the plan? I don’t know. I suppose the past two weeks of writing (including this effort) is a start. It is just trying to re-establish the discipline of writing. In a way, this writing exercise is just another deflection. By writing about why I don’t write anymore I am just putting an apology out there. (And apology in the Aristotelian sense of course.) The wall keeping me from writing is not as wall so much as it is a mirror. A mirror showing me myself as not-a-person-that-writes. There is no way out of that except by not looking in that mirror and deciding to write. I could get rid of Twitter, but I don’t know that I’m going to. I could cut back. Cut back to just a few people on Twitter that I enjoy actually interacting with. Get rid of all the news and political stuff. But the platform creeps into everything. You can’t actually reduce your intake of Twitter. It is an all or nothing thing. You’re an addict or you are in recovery (or you were lucky enough to never experiment with Twitter in the first place).

I’m not sure where any of this leaves me… Except to figure out how to write more…

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.

Carbon Emissions Question

Greetings, loyal minions. So here is a real question for you to noodle over some. If the US and Western Europe (plus Canada, Japan, and Australia) were to achieve zero net carbon emissions in the next 20 years, but the other major emitters of carbon (China, India, Russia, et. al.) did nothing to reduce their carbon emissions, what would be the net impact on global climate change?

Seriously, that is the question.

I have been googling for about an hour looking for a model, or a description of a model, or a summary of a model that might show someone reading it “This is the net impact of these countries going to zero carbon emissions.”

I can’t find one. I found a neat chart showing which nations are the top emitters of carbon. Here is that chart. But I really want to see a model. Gawd knows that there seem to be plenty of models that (with varying degrees of inaccuracy) show how everything is going to hell if no nation does anything (or very little). Why is there no model that says, “here is the impact you can have if you do something major.”

I don’t want to go down the old path of “Well why should the US do anything because China and India aren’t doing anything?” I actually want that question anticipated (not that it should be now because the question has been asked plenty). Once anticipated I’d like to see a scientist develop a model that shows what might happen.

I think such a model might be useful. Useful only for those people who are sceptical, and open-minded; and admittedly small group. This issue, like so many others in what passes for “discourse” in these times, has had opinions ossify. People have made up their minds (in large part) and aren’t going to change. Not for any reason related to assessing the facts, theories, and models at hand, but just because they have made up their mind and have chosen to be obstinate about it.

Anyway… If there is a model out there… I’d like to take a look at it.

Carry on.

“Presidents Day” +1

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Smollett

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

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.

My Poor Commonwealth

Greetings, loyal minions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

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.

George H.W. Bush, RIP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gus am bris an latha agus an teich na sgailean.

Carry on.

Happy Thanksgiving

Greetings, loyal minions. To those of you in the United States, or Americans across the globe, Happy Thanksgiving. To all the rest of you, happy Thursday.

Thanksgiving Pin up

(Pinup idea ruthlessly stolen from our good friend Robbo.)

Carry on.

Well, That Didn’t Go As Expected

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Random Thoughts This Election Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

    About Naked Villainy

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