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President’s Day 2014

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that today is President’s Day. Or as he likes to call it, Washington’s Birthday. In the interest of putting something up here… Here is a partial repost of your Maximum Leader’s list of the Greatest US Presidents EVAH!

For what it is worth, the criteria for greatness listed must be restricted to their presidential careers. For example, if you wanted to claim (wrongly) that U.S. Grant was one of the greatest presidents you could not cite his Civil War record as “proof” of greatness. (However, for Grant you could cite the widespread corruption of his administration as a model for future corrupt presidential administrations.) Any reader who sends in a list will have his list published (with possible editorial commentary from your Maximum Leader).

To preview your Maximum Leader’s list, he presents his top five:

1) George Washington. The first president, and the overriding shaper of the office. He set down many of the precedents that still function today. He established the cabinet system, and gave shape to the executive branch. He set down the major goals of US foreign policy (shunning entangling alliances) which held until (arguably) the Second World War. He also flexed (for the first time) federal supremacy over the states by putting down rebellions in Pennsylvania.

2) Abraham Lincoln. He saved the Union.

3) Franklin Roosevelt. Created the modern presidency (characterized by a strong executive). He also created the modern federal government (characterized by not only supreme federal authority but by an all-intrusive federal government).

4) James Knox Polk. Your Maximum Leader has long been a torch bearer for Polk. He has always believed in the greatness of James K. Polk. Polk promised four things would be accomplished during his presidency. 1 - the Indian question in the south would be resolved; 2 - Texas would enter the Union; 3 - California would become part of the US; 4- a northern border with Canada west of the geat lakes would be fixed. Polk said if these four things were not done in his four years, he would not seek another term. During his term he: sent the army in to round up and move the Indians in the south, he faught a war with Mexico and acquired Texas, California, and other western lands. He was (thanks to British/Canadian intransigence) unable to negotiate a northern border with Canada. He refused to run for a second term, and retired. (Your Maximum Leader will also add that he died shortly after leaving office - which your Maximum Leader also thinks is a generally good thing for ex-presidents to do.)

5) Ronald Reagan. He redefined the role of the modern federal government. (If you don’t think so, look at the administration of Bill Clinton and guess again.) And he won the Cold War.

Aside: It is your Maximum Leader’s belief that Ronald Reagan will be the last true ideological president we will elect. With the 24 hour news cycle what it is (and the high level of scrutiny that candidates go through) it is so improbable that any “true believer” of any political stripe will be elected. We will be stuck with left-center, right-center, or center candidates from now on.

There you have it…

Also for what it is worth, your Maximum Leader is very distressed by President Obama trying (and so far being somewhat successful) to bypass Congress and governing by Executive Order. It is dangerous to our system of government. It is dangerous to Liberty. Sadly, this is what happens when people don’t have a concept of liberty…

Carry on.

Miscellany - A Funk for 2014

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader felt the urge to blog. So here he is. Does he have anything to write about? Does he have a cogent thought that needs to be broadcast into the ether?

No. He doesn’t.

So far 2014 is tiring. Your Maximum Leader isn’t exactly sure why, but he has a theory on why. He hasn’t been sleeping well. He’s be waking about 3:30 every morning for a week. Sometimes he’s able to get back to sleep. Other times he’s not. So that means that come 8-9pm he is really beginning to drag and feels like he needs to go to bed.

Is it aging? Could be. Is there unusual stress in his life? No, nothing out of the ordinary.

Humm… He doesn’t really know what is up. Perhaps it is seasonal.

Basically he has lots of pet theories that he’s not interested in testing…

Your Maximum Leader has been more fixated in the past few weeks with sensory experiences. Basic things. He’s been fixated on the taste of things. He’s been cooking lots of good stuff and he’s been very conscious of how it is smells and tastes. Not as much on the looks of his food. The other day he doctored up some leftovers. The plate was a mess but did it smell and taste great.

He’s also been very concerned about his own smell. Strange isn’t it? Your Maximum Leader bathes quite regularly and is, like most Americans, rather scent neutral. Of late your Maximum Leader has been using his regular soap (the absolutely fabulous Oval Soaps by Fresh) while bathing; but has been often washing his hands using some great hand-soap he was gifted. The hand-soap, and a bottle of lotion that came with it, were a very generous gift from relatives just returned from Britain. The hand-soap is Quercus by Penhaligon’s of London. The Royal Warrant on the bottle should be a clue that the stuff is pricey but good. At $30 for a 300ML bottle it is probably not going to be a regular staple of your Maximum Leader’s toiletries; but he’d like it to be. The stuff is so good that he is going to seek out the local Penhaligon’s dealer in DC and actually consider buying some Eau de Toilette of a scent that jumps out at him. He doubts he’ll go through with this little plan due to the cost of the stuff ($125 a bottle!!!). Indeed the very fact that he is considering doing this is rather shocking to him.

Perhaps it is all part of this odd funk he is in. (Emotional funk. Not odoriferous funk certainly; if anything your Maximum Leader smells fantastic.)

There isn’t much else to comment upon. At least not much that is leaping to his mind. Your Maximum Leader is going to have to make some meat sauce for dinner in a little bit. The kids wanted spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner and your Maximum Leader was happy to oblige them. He is debating with himself if he’ll make meatballs or just put the meat straight into the sauce. He’ll likely take the easy way out and put the meat in the sauce.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader will start cooking now.

He may be back later today… Or not…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Happy New Year!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure when it happened, but he became an old man a while back. He became an old man when he suddenly couldn’t sleep in or stay up really late. He hasn’t started to eat dinner yet at 4:30 in the afternoon; but it is bound to happen soon.

So here it is New Year’s Eve and it is only about 8:20pm (Eastern Standard Time) and he is already contemplating sleep. Since it is already after midnight in London (GMT of course) he considers it to be New Year’s Day already. Then again, from the point of view of Catholic liturgical practice, it was New Year’s Day at sundown. Speaking of the Roman Catholic Church, your Maximum Leader must be at church in the morning at 7am. That is another reason to get to bed…

Anyhoo…

Happy New Year to you all.

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

Happy Thanksgiving & a Family Tale

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes you all (or at least you Americans) a happy Thanksgiving. His turkey is in the oven and various side dishes have been prepped and are awaiting their cook time. He is taking a little break and trying to relax a little before doing more cooking…

For some reason this little family story popped into his mind today and he decided to share it…

Many years ago, your Maximum Leader was sitting in his maternal grandmother’s kitchen discussing what he and his maternal grandmother would be cooking for a family gathering. In the course of discussing the menu, your Maximum Leader’s maternal grandfather said that this would be a good time to pull out “that cookbook I got you” and use it to plan a menu. Your Maximum Leader asked what cookbook while glancing over at his maternal grandmother. Grandma suddenly had a sour look on her face. Your Maximum Leader again about the cookbook. At that point his grandfather got up and went to another room; returning shortly with a beautiful book.

Your Maximum Leader is serious. It was a gorgeous book. It was bound in thick green leather and debossed with gold leaf (real gold leaf in fact). On the front and spine the lovely script said the book was the “Cordon Bleu Menu Cookbook.” As your Maximum Leader opened the book the spine made a noise. It had obviously not been opened in years. The book was published by the Cordon Bleu school in Paris in the early 1950s. (Your Maximum Leader was looking at it in the late 1980s.) The pages were heavy bond and had wonderful hand. The book was divided by season and holidays. Each chapter provided a number of complete formal menus for breakfast, lunch, brunch, tea, and dinner by season or holiday. The menus were described in detail with recipes, order of service, description of what to use to decorate the table, what wines to serve with the food. All of this was in French and in English. The photo pages were spectacular.

So… Your Maximum Leader leafed through the book and commented that it was a lovely book and asked how long it had been hanging around without him ever seeing it. At that point Grandpa started to tell the tale of the book. Grandpa worked for the Department of the Army from the 1939 to 1969. During the 1950s he was often assigned to various NATO related tasks and would often travel to Europe (with a cool diplomatic passport that your Maximum Leader still has). So, the tale progressed. Grandpa was on NATO business in Belgium and France and happened to be in Paris. It occurred to Grandpa that he ought to try and bring Grandma a different type of gift than his usual. He was in the habit of buying some fancy perfume or article of clothing for Grandma while he was abroad. This time it was going to be different.

Your Maximum Leader’s maternal grandmother was a great cook. She was taught by her mother and grandmother. She could bake (and was a great baker). She could cook. In a kitchen she was an expert. In your Maximum Leader’s life, he couldn’t remember seeing her study a recipe to make a dish. She did have a copy of The Joy of Cooking but it seemed to be for quick reference or to jog her memory when she was cooking something.

Grandpa continued that one night on this business trip to Paris he was being wined and dined by some French official. The dinner was prepared by students and professors at the famed Cordon Bleu school. Of course, back in the 1950s there was only one Cordon Bleu in Paris - now they have them everywhere… Anyhow, at some point during the dinner, or just after, Grandpa commented on the quality and breadth of the dinner and how it lived up to every preconception of fine French dining. His host noted that the students and professors had put together a book with recipes and other instructions for how to put on a similar type of meal. Grandpa asked where he could get a copy and was told that they would deliver one to him the next day.

And so Grandpa acquired the large green-leather bound debossed in gold leaf cookbook.

Needless to say, Grandpa was pretty excited that he’d found such a thoughtful and unique gift for his wife. He had it wrapped up for presentation when he arrived home…

Well… The gift didn’t go over as planned. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure of the exact circumstances under which the gift was exchanged from Grandpa to Grandma; but it didn’t go well. Apparently Grandma took the cookbook as a subtle jab that she wasn’t well versed in preparing fancy meals. To your Maximum Leader’s knowledge, Grandma never looked at that cookbook after that first instance. It sat on a hidden bookshelf in your Maximum Leader’s grandparents house for 30 years before Grandpa retrieved it that day.

After perusing the book, your Maximum Leader said that the book was really cook and would be a handy reference when planning a formal dinner party. Right after saying that, Grandma said sternly, “If you like the book you can have it. I never use it.”

So the book passed from Grandma to your Maximum Leader…

Unlike his grandmother, your Maximum Leader used the book a few times. He prepared multi-course meals for friends, girlfriends, girlfriend’s parents and others. (NB - Your Maximum Leader cooked a huge meal - six or seven courses - for a girl he dated for a while and her father and step-mother. It must have been sort of impressive because years later when he happened to encounter his now-former-girlfriend’s father at the mall the father reminisced that he could still remember the meal and that your Maximum Leader was the only boyfriend of his daughter of whom he had approved. In fact he encouraged his daughter to consider me a fine marriage material.) That cookbook came in handy on more than one occasion.

So, on this huge feast day in America is your Maximum Leader using this great tome to help him make a great Thanksgiving dinner? Well, no… Sadly, the book is no longer with your Maximum Leader…

You see, a number of years back, your Maximum Leader was dog-sitting for his sainted Father-in-law and beloved Mother-in-law while they were on a trip to Canada. One of the dogs (there were two - they were beautiful purebred Chesapeake Retrievers) had never been to the Villainschloss before and was a little nervous. After overcoming his nerves, he decided to start marking the Villainschloss ash his… He decided to pee all over one of your Maximum Leader’s bookcases… Sadly, the primary landing point for the pee was the Cordon Bleu cookbook. This happened while your Maximum Leader was out at work, and Mrs Villain did her best to rescue the book. But it was not to be. Mrs Villain threw the book (and a few other favorites that met a similar fate that day) away….

And thus the book’s karma was fulfilled…

Today, while planning the Thanksgiving menu, your Maximum Leader did wish that he still had the book… For reference purposes…

Happy Thanksgiving….

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader.

The Next Villainschloss

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has found the plans for the next Villainschloss. Thanks to Allplans.com.

It is the Darien II Castle House Plan. Clicky here to see the page.

For you too lazy to click, here is a stolen image…

AllPlans.com Darien II Castle House - Scottish Castle House Pla

With a few modifications, it would perfectly suit his needs…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

Positively Orwellian

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has deceived you. He deceit is that he’s led you to this post with a misleading title. You might think that he is going to rant about some element of Obamacare or other political item in a way that will make them out to be Orwellian.

That is not so.

It turns out that our bloggy friend Professor Mondo links to a website called “I Write Like” which attempts to take a piece of submitted writing and tell you what writer your writing is most like.

After submitting his short fiction piece “The Commissar” the web site told your Maximum Leader that he wrote like George Orwell.

Other blog writing samples came out predominately as Cory Doctorow.

All in all, your Maximum Leader would be very pleased with himself if he did, in fact, write in a style similar to Orwell. Your Maximum Leader is fond of Orwell’s style and many of his works. Sadly, your Maximum Leader has never read any Cory Doctorow. Thus, he can’t comment on the “I Write Like” analyzer’s efficacy on his other writings. Perhaps your Maximum Leader should pick up some Doctorow and read a bit.

Thanks for the neat link Professor! (He writes while doffing his bejewelled myllan cap in the Professor’s direction.)

Carry on.

(Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader)

Triumphant (+208 years)

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader now posts for your viewing pleasure his annual tribute to Lord Nelson and the hearty Tars of the Royal Navy - the Victors of Trafalgar.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will be lifting his glass today to toast Admiral Lord Nelson and the hearty tars of the Royal Navy as he celebrates the 208th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

On this day in 1805, Lord Nelson led the fleet into combat against the combined French and Spanish fleets off Cape Trafalgar. By the end of the day the Franco-Spanish force was destroyed or driven to port. Any hope Napoleon had for invading Britain was dashed that day. The battle also resulted in about 100 years of complete naval supremacy by Britain over the seas of the world.

The late and very lamented hero of the hour:

Lord Nelson.

Nelson’s plan called for the fleet to be divided into two columns. The two columns would be sailed (under tremendous fire) into the Franco-Spanish line in a way that would bisect that line in two places.

Before the battle Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, flew the following signal:

England expects that every man will do his D - U - T - Y.

And over the course of the day, every British sailor did his duty.

During the course of the fighting Nelson was killed by a sniper.

Nelson’s body was preserved in rum and returned to a joyful nation who interred the hero in the crypt of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

Nelson’s Tomb St.Paul’s

Your Maximum Leader hopes that all you Anglophiles (and lovers of the fruits of the Anglo-Western tradition that we continue to enjoy in the US) will remember the great service done on behalf of civilization by Lord Nelson and the men of the Royal Navy over two hundred years ago.

[In 2007] years ago when this post first ran, there was some discussion in the comments as to whether Trafalgar was (as you Maximum Leader billed it) the greatest naval victory in the history of the world. Among the other contenders were: Salamis, Actium, Lepanto, Tsushima and Midway.

Your Maximum Leader will let you all decide which of these famous battles might be the greatest naval battle in the history of the world… [But for him it will remain Trafalgar.]

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

Google keyword search - local politics edition

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has some Google keyword searches set up. Once a day he gets a message from Google listing all the matches to the various standing searches he has and he’ll peruse the results with varying degrees of interest (based largely on headlines - not the best method but it is was it is). Never once has it occurred to your Maximum Leader that anything he might have written would turn up on someone else’s Google keyword search.

Well… He was wrong…

So, Saturday afternoon your Maximum Leader and Mrs Villain were standing inside the garage at the Villainschloss chatting with a friend when he espied two people walking down the cul-de-sac towards the house. Your Maximum Leader did not recognize the two at a distance. As they approached, his friend said, “Oh, that looks like Scott Hirons and Meg Bohmke. They were in my neighborhood earlier today doing some canvassing.” Sure enough, it was Scott Hirons and Meg Bohmke coming to canvass your Maximum Leader and Mrs Villain. As it turns out, Scott had a Google keyword search set up for his name and got an alert that my last blog post (immediately below) was published. (NB to Scott: Hello there!) He read my post and started to figure out who Your Maximum Leader might be. Then, after putting the clues together, he figured out your Maximum Leader’s true identity. Then he realized that he’d not canvassed your Maximum Leader’s neighborhood. So he contacted Meg Bohmke and together they walked through the neighborhood.

Your Maximum Leader, Mrs Villain, Scott Hirons and Meg Bohmke had a lovely conversation. It was wide ranging on local issues (but focused quite a bit on education - which along with roads is always the biggest local issue around here). We probably took up too much of the candidate’s time, but it was well worth it. Your Maximum Leader got himself set straight on many items that Meg had done during her time on the school board. Indeed, some of his education came from Mrs Villain who just hadn’t ever spoken about things she knew that Meg had gotten accomplished during her term. All in all, your Maximum Leader feels much more comfortable voting for Meg for supervisor - and Scott already had a strong vote from your Maximum Leader.

Your Maximum Leader is pretty sure that his regular readership doesn’t include many (or really any) of his neighbors (except one (NB to Sue: Hey Sue!)); but for those of you out there who might have a keyword search that leads you to this page, consider this a formal endorsement and even an exhortation - nay a command. Get yourself out there and vote for Meg Bohmke and Scott Hirons. They are both good people who have a vision for Stafford County and where we need to be going. Visit their websites: Scott Hirons (or follow Scott on Twitter @scotthirons), Meg Bohmke (or follow Meg on Twitter @megbohmke).

Get out there and vote on November 5th.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

A quickie

Greetings, loyal minions. You Maximum Leader says something about a rebirth of his blog, and then takes a month off. What a lousy bastard your Maximum Leader can be…

Anyhoo…

Some quick thoughts for those of you who might be stopping in…

As some of you know, this is the year when your Maximum Leader’s home state, the great Commonwealth of Virginia, holds elections for statewide office. In all the years since he’s been eligible to vote, your Maximum Leader has generally been pleased enough (or even downright excited) by the quality of candidates for statewide office. He’s said it here before, all in all, he’s pleased with his state government. Well… The past few years his level of pleasure at his state government has decreased somewhat. But this year he must say without equivocation, the choices he has for statewide office are just terrible. Let him even go further. (Cover your eyes ye of low tolerance for bad language!) The choices he’s got for Governor suck big donkey dicks. Terry McAulliffe, the Democrat and former Clinton hack, is a miserable piece of shit. Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican and current Attorney General of VA, is a strident warrior in the culture wars who is a bit too strident for your Maximum Leader. Basically, your Maximum Leader can’t think of a pleasant thing to say about either man running for the chief executive office of his great Commonwealth. So as it is, he’ll be voting for Robert Sarvis, the Libertarian candidate for Governor. In the Lt Governor’s race your Maximum Leader will vote for Ralph Northam, a Democratic state senator and doctor, over Earl Jackson, a Republican and minister. Northam is a fairly liberal Democrat with whom your Maximum Leader doesn’t share many political views. Jackson is cut from a similar cloth as Ken Cuccinelli. Your Maximum Leader just can’t vote for him… And then there is the Attorney General’s race. Your Maximum Leader will vote, gladly, for Mark Obenshain, a Republican state senator and scion of a prominent Virginia political family, over Mark Herring, a Democratic state senator. Further down the ticket your Maximum Leader will continue to vote for (as he has in elections past) Bill Howell and Richard Stuart. Both are Republicans who represent your Maximum Leader. Howell is also Speaker of the House of Delegates and a very influential man in state government. Both Howell and Stuart are good people, which helps when casting a ballot. Further down the ticket… Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure for whom he’ll be voting for Supervisor and School Board member. He is leaning towards Meg Bohmke for Supervisor as she has been endorsed by many friends and acquaintances of your Maximum Leader. But endorsements aside, Bohmke has been on the School Board and hasn’t seemed to do too much in that role. So, there is trepidation in your Maximum Leader’s mind on this one. Your Maximum Leader will also vote for Scott Hirons for School Board. Mrs Villain taught the Hirons kids in school and thinks very highly of Scott.

So there it is… All your Maximum Leader’s endorsements for voting in Virginia this year… As if you all care…

In other news…

How about this Government shutdown? Well… A pox on all the Houses (and Senate and President). All share some level of blame for what is a bad situation. Your Maximum Leader firmly believes that there is a proper role for government. He also believes that government is a necessity for civilized society. The primary role of the government is to function and execute it’s role. Now your Maximum Leader takes a view towards very limited government at the federal level. He does believe that Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, or whatever the hell you want to call it is a bad idea, is poorly executed, and doesn’t make a lot of economic sense. But really… The law was passed. A few elections have occurred since passage. And the Supreme Court of the US has made initial pronouncements in favor of the law as enacted. Basically, that is a lot of “upholding” and not a lot “repealing.” The Tea Party faction of the Republican Caucus needs to get together and think of some other tactic on addressing this law. Shutting down the government isn’t the answer. Failing to raise the debt ceiling is not the answer. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t have high expectations for Congress. Indeed, they are very very low. But he does expect them to do ONE (and precisely 1) thing every year. That is to pass a budget. Even if the budget is “okay we’re just passing last year’s budget again without changes.” It is hard work, but it can be done. If you want a longer screed on this, send your Maximum Leader an email or tweet him (@maximumleader)

In more news…

At Professor Mondo’s suggestion your Maximum Leader has listened to a few episodes of Welcome to Night Vale. Your Maximum Leader can’t decide if he likes it or not. It is clever. But there is a quality to the narrator’s voice that puts off your Maximum Leader… He’ll probably keep listening for a while.

Like Robbo, your Maximum Leader didn’t blog much about his beloved Washington Nationals this year. He had high hopes for the team and did think they would make the playoffs. As we know that didn’t happen. Your Maximum Leader holds out high hopes for next year. He only wants his team to find a good manager and start winning. There is a lot of scuttlebutt about Cal Ripken Jr. being interested in the Nationals manager job. Your Maximum Leader pretty much agrees with Bos on Ripken for Nats manager.

Then there are the Washington Capitals… Your Maximum Leader’s hockey team are going to have a tough row to hoe to get to the playoffs in a newly minted “Metropolitan” Division in the Eastern Conference. He hopes it happens, but he wonders if the core of the team is getting a little old and the competition being a little too tough. He’ll be following closely how the season goes…

And finally… Your Maximum Leader would like to see the Los Angeles Dodger and the Boston Red Sox in the World Series… Then, being a National League guy, he would like to see the Dodgers win. But those Sox will be hard (VERY HARD in fact) to stop…

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)

Happy Day!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wanted to take a moment to wish his best buddy Kevin a big ole happy 44th.

Many happy returns.

Carry on.

So what is up with this rebirth of the blog?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is sure you’re asking yourself, “Self, what has caused my Maximum Leader to start blogging again? Is this a temporary thing?”

Well… It might be temporary - one cannot tell.

But why is your Maximum Leader blogging more frequently?

One reason that is immediately apparent to your Maximum Leader… He’s spending more time in front of his home computer. Why is this? Well, it is because for the first time since the mid 1990s, your Maximum Leader is taking a college course.

Yup. Your Maximum Leader is once again a college student. A community college student to be sure, but a college student nonetheless.

You see, your Maximum Leader has a job. And in that job he needs to improve his skills at accounting. So he is taking an accounting class at the local community college.

Yeah… Your Maximum Leader is the old geezer in the class of 20 somethings. Indeed, your Maximum Leader is only 1 year younger than his instructor.

You know, his class is an interesting cross section of his community. Indeed his row in the class is it’s own little cross section. There is the middle-aged white guy (yours truly), the ambitious young manager of Indian descent who majored in marketing and needs the accounting experience to get a promotion, the single mom trying to get a degree, and the guy who wasn’t ready for college when he graduated from high school and is now getting ready.

A lot has changed in the years since your Maximum Leader was last in a college class. First off, there are computers at every work station. Hell, they are “work stations” and not “desks.” His homework is all done on-line, turned in via a web app and graded and recorded instantly. There are on-line “blackboards” and everything is in PowerPoint.

My how the world turns.

Well… There isn’t much to add about the class here. Your Maximum Leader is learning a lot (even in two weeks) and hopes to learn even more as the class progresses. He is getting the hang of homework he has to do for himself (and not to help his children with).

He is also spending more time on his computer and deciding it might be a good thing to blog some…

So there you go…

Carry on.
(Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader)

Fool me once…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been thinking a lot about Syria and our impending march towards some sort of military action against the Syrian regime. Here is some of what he is thinking…

Let him begin by looking backwards before he looks forward… Your Maximum Leader fully supported the actions of the Bush Administration in Afghanistan and Iraq. He went so far as to go back and find some old emails he exchanged with friends at the time in order to confirm what he is about to write was accurate… He supported the Iraq War not because he expected to find weapons of mass destruction, or that there was some imminent threat to the United States. (Although, he did expect to find WMD. He wasn’t sure that Iraq posed an imminent threat to any specific US interest.) He supported the Iraq War because he believed at the time that it was time to try something to “shake up” the Middle East, which has been more or less politically ossified since the 1970s. He reasoned that if Saddam Hussein was overthrown and replaced the region might experience some positive change towards resolving some of the more or less intractable issues that have befouled the area. He believed at the time that Iraq was not ready for full western-style democracy, but might be ready for some sort of constitutional system (he speculated at the time that a monarch might be a suitable moderating influence on a reasonably-democratic Iraq). While he wouldn’t identify himself as a “neocon,” insofar as war in Iraq was concerned; he supported the “neocon” agenda in the run up to war.

While looking through the old emails he referenced a few lines ago, he found one in which he expressed confidence that the Bush Administration had a plan that spelled out our goals, objectives and actions to take once the war started. Your Maximum Leader, at the time, would have bet money (not a lot, but some) that we had a thoughtful plan for the invasion and aftermath of Iraq. Afterall, this was the Department of Defense that had plans that assumed that Canada was going to invade the US. If we had a plan to take out Canada, we surely had a plan for a legitimate possible enemy in Iraq. At the time is wasn’t important that we, the US public, know what the plan was. It was stupid to telegraph our plans to the Iraqis and tip our hand. So back then it wasn’t important to know what the plan was, because we surely had a plan.

Well… Was your Maximum Leader wrong on that count. The Bush Administration didn’t have a plan. Not only that, they dealt poorly with the situation on the ground for far too long. By the time the Bush Administration wised up, the damage was done and we’d screwed the pooch in Iraq.

So… Needless to say… Your Maximum Leader isn’t as sanguine now as he was then when it comes to US intervention in the Middle East.

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring and in light of the ongoing unrest in Egypt, your Maximum Leader is really reticent about putting a US soldier anywhere in the Middle East. Frankly, he’s equally reticent about dropping bombs or shooting missiles into the region.

So we find ourselves faced with the prospect of military action against the Syrian regime.

Here are a few things your Maximum Leader believes about this situation. First, the Assad regime is evil and they are capable of using chemical weapons against their populace. Secondly, he believes that chemical weapons were in fact used on the people of Syria. Third, he does believe that when a regime (or group, or individual) uses chemical weapons they deserve to be punished as harshly as possible by the whole international community.

Let us look a little more at Syria. After the uprisings of the Arab Spring (and after seeing what the US did in Iraq), Bashir Assad probably had a thought. That thought probably went something like this: “Holy shit! Common people are rising up and really screwing over the people that have been screwing them over for decades. Hey! My dad and I have been screwing the people here for decades. Fuuuuuuuuccccckkk. I could be next. Well you know what isn’t going to happen to me? I’m not gonna be overthrown and put in jail like Mubarak. I’m not going to be hanged like Saddam. And sure as shit I’m not going to die in some drainpipe by the side of the road like Gaddafi. I’m gonna hold out to the bitter end and go like Tony Montana if I wind up losing.”

Thus you have a civil war in Syria that has been going on now for years.

Bashir Assad has now gotten in more desperate straits and has used chemical weapons against his internal enemies. He deserves everything (and more) coming to him…

But how do we deliver what should justifiably be coming to Assad and his regime.

Aye. There’s the rub.

According to all your Maximum Leader has read, the goal of the United States would be to punish the Assad regime for using chemical weapons. Our goal is not regime change. Our plan, such as it is, is to drop bombs and missiles on “targets” of some sort to get our message across. And by the way, the Brits aren’t with us. On the other hand the French and Aussies are. (NB: God Bless the Aussies. Your Maximum Leader loves Australia and frankly every Aussie he’s ever met personally.)

So what the hell are we to do? Your Maximum Leader agrees with President Obama in as much as Syria should suffer some severe consequence for using chemical weapons. But unlike President Obama, your Maximum Leader isn’t sure WHAT the US can do that would be effective in any way.

Your Maximum Leader would, ordinarily, be upset at the Obama Administration for telegraphing their lack of a plan to the Syrians. But in light of what he’s learned from the Bush Administration… If you don’t have a legitimate plan for military action, it is probably best not to undertake that action.

If you want you can call your Maximum Leader a partisan hack for supporting a war started by a president he supported; but not supporting one that a president he didn’t support wants to start; he supposes that could be a fair criticism. But, your Maximum Leader really has changed. Look, he was willing to try the untried path once. That wasn’t very conservative of him. But sometimes you can look over the long course of history in a region like the Middle East and realize that major shakeups are the only events that change the region. He figured a major change led by a positive actor like the United States would affect a positive change. Your Maximum Leader was wrong on that. Sadly, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle and we are stuck with the fruits of our ill-conceived adventurism.

In your Maximum Leader’s opinion, there isn’t anything the United States can do right now that would have any positive affect on Syria, the region or the world. He’s open to listening to anyone with a plan. He believes it is possible to convince him to change his mind. But it might be an uphill battle right now. He would be inclined to go back to a Cold War methodology and have our friends and allies take action that we support. But in the Middle East right now we have only one real friend (Israel - of course) and he can’t see a course of action by Israel that would ameliorate the situation in any way.

Basically, the situation is screwed up and there isn’t anything we can to to change that.

One supposes that we can hope that the French take the lead in this and drop some bombs and shoot some missiles that we strongly approve of…

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.

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