Some Thoughts

Greetings, loyal minions.

You wouldn’t know it but your Maximum Leader has drafts in his folder that need work to be able to publish. He may get around to it. He may not. Here are some things to read and forget for you all…

Your Maximum Leader has been counting his carb intake recently. And by recently he means over the past 2-3 weeks. He is generally able to keep below 175 grams of total carbs a day. He isn’t trying to calculate “Net Carbs” as it will occupy too much space in his head. He also doesn’t want to download an app to track this stuff. No major changes to report, which is not unexpected on his part. He isn’t changing much else about his eating habits. Though, twice since he started he has really been overwhelmed with an urge to eat “carby things.” The first time he had some chips. That put him over 225 grams of carbs for that day. The second time was last night. He ate a large piece of berry pie. Estimating the carbs by the amount of berries he estimated to be in the slice of pie, and assuming that the crust was about the same as a piece of bread that put him at about 225 grams again. We’ll see how this all goes when he goes back in October for a checkup. We’ll see if his blood sugar is lower than it was in March.

Next up, your Maximum Leader is a little excited about going on a little weekend trip this upcoming weekend. He and Mrs. Villain are going to Philadelphia on the train for a short grown ups weekend. Your Maximum Leader got a great deal on the train tickets and the hotel room. We plan on visiting the Franklin Institute, the Museum of the American Revolution, and (possibly) the Barnes Foundation. Perhaps we’ll have a nice meal or two.

A quick codicil to your Maximum Leader’s post on incitement that you should find below this post. This is a short clarification that he’s been meaning to add for our friend, The Metropolitan. Your Maximum Leader is not trying to suggest that incitement be adjudicated in the courts. Though that is a possibility. What he’d really like to see are some agreed upon standards that would be codified by Congress (both houses) that everyone would agree to implement if a political figure is accused of incitement. Your Maximum Leader fully knows that “high crimes and misdemeanors” can mean whatever the hell the House of Representatives wants it to. And the Senate can use whatever process for adjudicating an impeached official they want. But some guidelines, some “bright red” guidelines, would be nice to have. It will not happen, but your Maximum Leader would like to see it regardless. If there were some consequences for truly awful actions by politicians there might be fewer incidents of truly awful actions by politicians.

Also, The Metropolitan is owed a general re-hash of the Trump Administration by your Maximum Leader. Here is the abstract of what your Maximum Leader thinks… Donald Trump is a terrible human being who should never have been nominated for the office in which he served. He was a terribly divisive figure, in a divisive time, that reveled in creating more chaos and strife. Your Maximum Leader agreed with some policies (judicial appointments, Israeli/Palestinian issues, Keystone XL pipeline). He agreed in principle with other policies, though disagreed with how they were carried out (like asking allies to do more towards their own defense, hard line on Iran, immigration reform & having immigrants processed in other countries, draw-down of US forces abroad, to name a few). And he outright disagreed with some policies (tax reform, propping up coal power,). As a bulwark against Democrats, Trump functioned pretty well all in all. Basically, both parties are on the path to destroying the American Republic. The Democratic Party wants to move the nation into the express lanes to our fall, and the Republican party is happy to go slowly in the local lanes. The destination for both parties is the same. Your Maximum Leader does hope for a new birth of political sensibility to come over the country, but he doesn’t see it happening in the next few years. He isn’t ruling it out, but it doesn’t seem to be in the offing any time soon. (Just as he would speculate that no one would have foreseen Reagan coming in 1968.)

Well… That is all for now.

Carry on.

Incitement

Greetings, loyal minions.

Your Maximum Leader sees that the jury in the Derek Chauvin trial seems to have reached a verdict. That verdict will be announced shortly. Your Maximum Leader was drafting out a blog post on incitement, and he’ll just share a few quick thoughts here and now - rather unformed - before the chaos that ensues after the verdict is announced. And know, there will be chaos after the verdict. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t care what the verdict is. It makes no difference. The verdict will result in violence and property destruction no matter how it turns out. For the record, your Maximum Leader (who has not been carefully following the details of what transpired at the trial) believes that Chauvin will be found guilty of Manslaughter and receive a sentence of about 8 years of which he’ll serve about 2.5.

Having said that, let’s talk about incitement for a moment. Your Maximum Leader has thought a lot about incitement in 2021. It started on January 6th. On that day the (then) President of the United States urged a crowd of his followers to go to the Capitol building and protest the outcome of the US Presidential election. That crowd went to the Capitol building and eventually stormed the building. The action of the crowd turned mob resulted in property damage, injury, and death. Your Maximum Leader believes it was one of the darkest days for the Republic during his lifetime. The question became, did the President incite the crowd/mob to do what they did?

This is theme has resurfaced again after Congresswoman Maxine Waters urged protesters to “stay on the street” and “get more confrontational” if the jury didn’t convict Derek Chauvin in the George Floyd case.

So… Were these both examples of incitement? Well, your Maximum Leader has taken some time to try to educate himself a little bit on what exactly the law says about incitement. It turns out that the law is pretty clear. Broadly speaking to legally meet the definition of incitement a person has to directly call for lawless actions or speak in a way that will likely result in lawless actions. This is the Brandenburg Test. So… In order for someone to be prosecuted for incitement (to riot, to engage in a rebellion, or to engage in an insurrection) on has to be pretty explicit about about engaging in speech that will result in lawlessness. In the instances of President Trump’s and Congresswoman Waters’ comments it seems pretty clear that neither of them would meet the standard to be charged and found guilty of incitement.

But, your Maximum Leader wonders (as did Democrats in the House of Representatives when they impeached President Trump for a second time) if there should be a lower bar for what he will call “Political Incitement.” That is when a political leader makes statements that are both inflammatory enough to motivate people to lawlessness, but vague enough to not pass the Brandenburg Test. Your Maximum Leader will go on the proverbial record and say that there ought to be some penalty for Political Incitement. In both the cases he’s mentioned here, he would want at a minimum a formal censure of the offending person. But further, he would be supportive of the removal of that person from office and barring that person from holding office in the future. So, if you’re wondering, yes your Maximum Leader would have supported the removal from office of Trump in January 2021. He would also support the removal from office of Waters in April 2021.

Basically it comes down to elected officials holding offices of trust under the Constitution of the United States should not make inflammatory statements that are likely to provoke or inspire lawlessness. So, if you are a US Senator and you go and speak to a crowd of supporters who are inclined to be dissatisfied with their lot and tell them that they should go and stand up for themselves, that could be a type of political incitement. If you are the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and you go and speak to a crowd protesting unfair housing practices in some US city and during your remarks you encourage the crowd to show people how angry you are and to keep up protesting for change, that could be a type of political incitement. In both of these hypotheticals, if the crowds engaged in lawless behavior as a result of the remarks given, that would meet his personal test in this “Political Incitement.” Now your Maximum Leader isn’t trying to make a hard and fast rule, but he is trying to set a standard for acceptable behavior among officials. Officials should always default to eschewing remarks that could inflame a crowd to lawlessness. Sadly we live in a time where this doesn’t seem to be the case for some (a noteworthy few in fact) officials. Those officials are, by and large, the worst of our elected officials and we as a nation would be better off without them.

Of course, your Maximum Leader is just a bloviator in the ether… So all this amounts to him crying out like an idiot. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Carry on.

Out & In

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has a draft of a lengthy post about the events in our country that have unraveled over the past 2 weeks. But every time he thinks about publishing it, something new and strange seems to happen. So on this January 20th, 2021, Inauguration Day, your Maximum Leader will keep his comments short.

In March 1797, newly-minted former President George Washington said to newly-minted President John Adams, “I am fairly out, and you are fairly in. See which of us will be the happiest.” This quotation has come into your Maximum Leader’s mind many times in the past few weeks. In a few hours, Donald Trump will be fairly out of office and Joe Biden will be fairly in. It is important to state that very clearly. This election was not stolen. There was no great conspiracy. Joe Biden won a closely contested election. Trump’s team had chances all over the country and in state and federal courts to prove otherwise. They cannot. This part of the story has ended.

So with Trump fairly out and Biden fairly in, your Maximum Leader has reflected and has come to his conclusion that for what may be the first time in the history of the Republic, the incoming President may be happier than the outgoing President. Trump will continue to be a bitter, nasty, egomaniac brooding over his lies in his post-presidential years. Biden will be overwhelmed with his job and may not have much time for reflection. Your Maximum Leader hopes not to hear much from or about Trump starting tomorrow. But that will not come to pass. There is a trial in the Senate that will take center stage for a time. Then there will be the inevitable blaming of Trump (rightfully and wrongly) for everything that Biden and the Democrats can or cannot do that will go on for about 18 months. But after that trial your Maximum Leader hopes that it will be easier to ignore anything involving Donald Trump.

Though he doesn’t have high hopes, or great expectations, or even moderate expectations; he hopes that Joe Biden can start to move the United States towards a more normal, or at least settled, style of government. Good luck to him, and to all of us.

Carry on.

Nile Dam

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is pretty confident that he, and the rest of you, may have missed the little tidbit from last week about how President Trump weighed in on the delicate Nile dam problem involving Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt. Here is a piece about it: Three-way Ethiopia dam talks to resume after Trump warning. Basically, President Trump said, when asked about the dam, “”It’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way… They’ll end up blowing up the dam.” Way to de-escalate there! Woo-hoo.

Of course, if you’ve been reading about the crisis you know that Egypt may very well blow up the dam. Or the three nations involved may come to some agreement on how much water will be let through the dam… We’ll continue to watch and see.

Carry on.

Avoiding Election News

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is taking a quick look right now at some non-election related news stories. (16:47 US Eastern Standard Time.) When he is done, it will be off the interwebs and social media and anything news related until at least tomorrow morning. At that point he will turn on the news to get the weather forecast. Sadly, he will likely get election news as well.

If all goes according to plan, he will have a few cocktails tonight whilst watching movies. Then he will drift off into dreamless slumber…

If all goes according to plan…

Carry on.

Speaking the Unspeakable.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been watching the news from Europe and Asia a little more carefully over the past few weeks than he has before. You see, he figured that since the Covid outbreaks in Europe and Asia for the most part preceded those of the US and Canada they would likely lead any “second wave” that might be happening. Additionally, since Europe and Asia seem to have better prevention and mitigation protocols than the US, it would stand to reason that seeing how bad a second wave of infections might be could illustrate how it could go in the US.

Well… The news isn’t good. This article from The Daily Beast might be one of the first of many that we will see in American outlets: Italy Did Everything Right to Stop a Second Wave of the Coronavirus. So What Went Wrong? The picture is not promising. Here are some salient points:

If you turn on the news in Italy right now, you might be forgiven for thinking you are getting reruns from March. Pictures of COVID-only units, field hospitals being erected, exhausted medics and coffins are again dominating headlines as Italy comes to grips with a deadly second wave of COVID-19. On Wednesday, the death toll topped 125 in a 24-hour period for the first time since May when this country was still under a Draconian lockdown and seen as a harbinger of what was to come.

[…]

On Wednesday, Italy logged 15,199 new infections–nearly three times as many as the worst day of the pandemic last March and a per capita rate that would be the equivalent of 90,000 new cases in a single day in the U.S., which has not yet been reached.

And it is only getting worse. “Certain metropolitan areas like Milan, Naples and Rome are already out of control in terms of containing the pandemic,” Walter Ricciardi, an infectious disease specialist advising the Italian government who holds the same position in Italy as Fauci does in the U.S. said at a conference Wednesday. “Their numbers are too high to be contained by the traditional method of tracing and testing. And as previous epidemics teach us, when you can’t contain you have to mitigate, namely you have to block movement.”

[…]

But authorities are very concerned still that despite all the best efforts to contain the spread, it simply cannot be stopped. The government’s experts insist that the rate of contagion among school children is not the driving factor, but young people who feel confident they won’t get very sick and insist on gathering socially may be. Now major cities like Milan, Rome and Naples have evening curfews to try to stop young people from gathering socially, which seems to be contributing to the spread. Riccardi said that most of the contagion that happens within multigenerational homes comes from young people bringing it in.

But Italy is by no means alone in its battle against the European second wave of the pandemic. France, Spain and the Czech Republic have all broken records in new cases and introduced measures to mitigate the spread. The United Kingdom has also recorded record numbers of new infections in a single day, and Ireland has completely locked down.

Germany—which largely avoided problems during the first European wave— has reported shocking numbers of new infections, which topped 10,000 in a single day on Wednesday. Authorities there have also blamed young people going out or groups meeting privately for the spread. Dr. Lothar Wieler, told the DW network that people going to work is not the problem. “We don’t see so many outbreaks at workplaces or in public transportation, but it’s mostly coming together in privacy, in parties and also in services and weddings,” he said. “We shouldn’t have too many of these events.”

[…]

But for many, the sacrifices that helped during the first round seem lost now, as though they had been made in vain.

Your Maximum Leader is frequently accused of being a pessimist by Mrs. Villain. He counters that he tries to be a realist. (NB: in any context this is an argument for the ages and will never be resolved.) But your Maximum Leader has privately, and is now publicly, wondered if some mitigation is just the best we can do against this virus until there is a vaccine and approved treatment regimen. The data seems to be adding up in the direction of we can try to limit the number of Covid related deaths, but we aren’t going to stop it. Your Maximum Leader remembers back at the beginning of the Covid outbreak in the US it was quarantine to slow the spread and not overwhelm the health care system. If one carefully read the charts and listened to the experts, the number of dead were not going to change just the period over which people died would be spread out. Your Maximum Leader thinks that this is what we are in for as fall turns to winter. All the precautions and steps we may (or may not) take as a nation (or collection of states - more accurately in this situation) are likely only to change the death toll in the margins. The numbers are going to happen and there isn’t much that can be done to stop them from happening.

Carry on.

Beirut Explosion

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was shocked and horrified to see the video of the massive explosion at the docks of Beirut, Lebanon, yesterday. Reports are that more than 100 people were killed. Damage is extensive. Your Maximum Leader feels for the people of Beirut and hopes that this was not a terrorist attack. Beirut, once the shining star of the Eastern Mediterranean in the 1960s, then the war ravaged desolation of the 1980s, seems to have been coming back in the 21st century. One hopes this is not a portent of the future.

Your Maximum Leader, no expert in these things. (He’s just an idiot with a website.) Speculated to himself yesterday that, given the location of the explosion at the port along the docks, that something in a warehouse or on a ship must have exploded. Apparently now there are reports that seem to back this up. Here is one: Beirut Ignored Public Warning There Was a Russian ‘Bomb’ at the Port. Here is a second: Fireworks, ammonium nitrate likely fueled Beirut explosion. Both linked articles assert that as much as 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate (the fertilizer used in the Oklahoma City bombing) was being stored in a warehouse or on a ship and it was this material that likely exploded.

Terrible. Your Maximum Leader is sure we will learn more as the investigation continues.

Carry on.

More on Nile Waters

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that now the situation along the Nile river is growing more tense. In a piece on Legal Insurrection, Leslie Eastman writes an interesting piece on the recent escalation of tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia over the latter’s move to start filling the reservoir behind the GERD dam. The Ethiopian Foreign Minister has apparently tweeted that the Nile belongs to Ethiopia. Egypt has not taken this statement well. There is an interesting bit in this piece about the financing of the dam by China. This dam, like so many other projects across Africa, has been financed by China to improve China’s position on the continent. It is worth your time to take a gander at this piece.

Carry on.

Water

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader fondly remembers a class he took in college. It was back in 1989. The class was called “American National Security Issues, 1989-2000.” The class was taught by LTG Samuel V. Wilson (US Army, Ret). By the way, you really ought to click on that link and read General Wilson’s Wiki page. General Wilson was one of the most interesting and thoughtful persons your Maximum Leader has ever had the pleasure of knowing. He considered himself lucky to be able to spend 90 minutes with General Wilson twice a week for a semester. Not too long ago your Maximum Leader found some class notes from this class. As he read over them, he started to remember how much he remembered. He also noted to himself just how many of the subjects that General Wilson covered in a class 31 years ago (yes THIRTY-ONE years ago) are still relevant today. One of the subjects that stuck with your Maximum Leader was water.

In the days before global warming, water was already an issue. There isn’t enough of it in many places. And as populations grow and become more wealthy they like to use more water. If this is happening where there isn’t enough water to begin with, that can be a problem. In fact, your Maximum Leader has observed for many decades now the various gulf states and how they try to deal with the question of water. It is a fascinating subject.

Water can also be a terrifying subject to think about. Take for example the Nile river. Way back in 1989 we talked about the Nile river. How it is the primary potable water source for 4 nations, chief among them Egypt. We spoke about the politics of the Aswan Dam and why the dam was so important in the first place. Well… Guess what? There is nothing new under the sun. If Egypt can dam the Nile, surely other nations can too.

And that is just what Ethiopia has done. If you missed it (and your Maximum Leader did until last year when he read a news article mentioning the dam), Ethiopia has been building a dam on the Blue Nile since 2011. Guess what else? That dam is finished. And Ethiopia is doing what is done when a dam is built. You fill a reservoir and start using the dam. Here is a piece on that: River Nile dam: Reservoir filling up, Ethiopia confirms. Here is the opening of the linked article:

A reservoir behind Ethiopia’s disputed Grand Renaissance dam on the River Nile has started filling with water - a day after talks with Egypt and Sudan ended without agreement, officials say.

Ethiopian Water Minister Seleshi Bekele confirmed the latest satellite images showing water levels rising.

Ethiopia sees the hydroelectric project as crucial for its economic growth.

But Egypt and Sudan, which are downstream, fear the large dam will greatly reduce their access to water.

Years of fraught negotiations have failed to reach a consensus on how and when to fill the reservoir, and how much water it should release.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has previously warned that filling and operating the dam without an agreement “that protects the downstream communities… would heighten tensions and could provoke crises and conflicts that further destabilise an already troubled region”.

A conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia, which are both US allies, would put millions of civilians at risk.

Going to war over water. Could that really happen? Do nations war over water?

As a matter of fact, they very well may. From The Independent (UK): Egypt is backed into a corner over the Nile dam – it may have no choice but to go to war. In this piece the commentator, Ahmed Aboudouh, writes:

Egyptian officials accuse the Ethiopian government of following a series of diplomatic one-upmanship ploys since signing the 2015-Declaration of Principles, which indicates that all parties should reach a deal first before filling the reservoir. But Ethiopian negotiators seem to have taken stock of the diplomatic prowess North Korea showed in its contracted negotiations with the US over denuclearisation. Since Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s 2018 joint statement in Singapore, the North Koreans have shown prudence in running the clock on their commitments. Now negotiations are frozen, and an agreement is far from complete. By following the same playbook, dragging its feet, Ethiopia seems to have led the Egyptians into a cul-de-sac.

The deadlock means Egypt is now running out of options. During a recent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss Ethiopia’s hydro-electric plant, Egypt’s foreign minister Sameh Shoukry stirred the pot. He described the dam as “a threat of potentially existential proportions”, and in a chest-thumping moment threatened that “Egypt will uphold and protect the vital interests of its people. Survival is not a question of choice, but an imperative of nature.” Ethiopia’s UN ambassador Taye Atske-Selassie countered, saying that for his nation accessing water resources was an “existential necessity.”

Water is not the only vital interest at stake: Egypt’s president and former general Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is fighting for his legitimacy, too. Since taking power in 2014, Sisi has advanced a populist/nationalist narrative based on cultivating too much pride in military strength and raising the people’s expectations over his ability to protect “Egypt’s national security and interests.” Sisi understands that by losing the diplomatic battle over filling up the dam, and succumbing to pressure from Ethiopia’s, he’d risk igniting popular unrest - and possibly a military coup.

Your Maximum Leader would find it amusing that another nation would take a play out of the North Korean playbook, if it weren’t so devastatingly true. Just keep talking and talking until you’ve achieved your goal is a perfectly legitimate (and effective) way of dealing with your neighbors. Then when your goal is achieved, you can stop talking.

As if 2020 hasn’t given us so much up to this point, we may have a Egypt/Ethiopia war to which to look forward to. It may be a short war. Send some fighters in, blow up the dam. Then, one hopes, they can stop shooting and go back to talking.

Carry on.

Vaccines

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been limiting his intake of news lately. It really doesn’t seem to be hurting him intellectually, psychologically, or emotionally. In fact, he’d say that he’s generally feeling better for having reduced his news intake. In “reducing his news intake” he doesn’t just mean news from traditional news sources (TV and newspaper) but also that which he consumes via the interwebs (Twitter, Facebook, and other on-line sources). In these times, the news is just jumping from one outrage to another and with few exceptions it is best summarized.

There is an idea. The news should be summarized. Too much of what we consume as “news” is really commentary on news. This is the age-old problem of what constitutes “reporting.” Your Maximum Leader has long held that we should have more “reporters.” Namely those that research and subsequently report the facts of a new story as clearly as possible. We have lots of “journalists” nowadays. The journalist may do some reporting, but they do a fair amount of commentary as well. You don’t need to remind your Maximum Leader that even reporters (in the sense he just described) are providing some “commentary” by choosing what stories deserve to be reported. That is certainly true. But the journalist is really putting their reporting into the “context” that shapes a “story” they want to tell. There is an important, if sometimes subtle distinction.

Anyhoo…

There are some news stories that your Maximum Leader does digest in more detail than others. One of those subjects about which he is reading is work towards an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Your Maximum Leader is interested, as just about everyone else is, about knowing more about a COVID vaccine. But, he’s found his mind turning towards some pretty bleak outlooks. This may be influenced by a book he is reading (Plague Hospitals: Public Health for the City in Early Modern Venice). What bleak outlook you say? Well let him elaborate…

There are, and have been since this past April, a number of news pieces out there that focus on the relatively quick decline in the effectiveness of antibodies to COVID-19 in people that have recovered from COVID-19. This is to say (in case you’ve not seen or read one) that the natural immunity that a human gets from having suffered through a bout of COVID-19 seems to disappear relatively quickly when compared to other viruses. In most circumstances suffering through a virus can give immunity to that same virus for many years, or a lifetime in some cases. It appears as though that “immunity” to COVID-19 may last only a few months at most. This is a real problem if one was hoping to achieve “herd immunity.” That is the state where enough people have developed their immunity to a virus that the spread of the virus is greatly reduced. If one doesn’t have immunity to a virus for very long, it obviously doesn’t help in reducing the spread of a virus.

So your Maximum Leader heard on a podcast, or radio interview, some weeks ago a researcher from (he believes) Oxford University who said that there is significant data on COVID-19 that can lend itself to theorizing that not only is herd immunity unlikely, but finding an effective vaccine against COVID-19 is equally unlikely. Your Maximum Leader wishes that he’d noted down the researchers name and institution at the time, but he didn’t. Well… He found a piece in his news feed that struck a chord with him. Here is the piece (which originated at Business Insider): Coronavirus immunity can start to fade away within weeks, according to a new study which puts a ‘nail in the coffin’ in the idea of herd immunity. Here are some salient quotes about herd immunity:

Immunity to the coronavirus may disappear within months for many patients, according to a major new UK study which found that antibodies peaked three weeks after symptoms appeared, before gradually fading away.

For some patients, no antibodies were detected after just a few months, throwing doubt on hopes for a long-lasting vaccine.

[…]

The study, which was carried out by scientists at King’s College London and first reported by The Guardian, “puts another nail in the coffin of the dangerous concept of herd immunity,” one of its authors said.

The study was based on the antibody responses of 90 patients and health workers at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. It showed that 60% of those tested had “potent” antibodies while battling COVID-19, but just 17% had the same level of potency three months later.

The potency of the antibodies fell by as much as 23 times over the three months, the study found, and in some cases were undetectable at the end of that period of time.

[…]

A similar study in Spain, which was published last week, found that just 5% of people tested maintained coronavirus antibodies. Fourteen percent of people who tested positive for the antibodies in the first round of testing did not test positive in subsequent tests carried out weeks later.

Two of the Spanish study’s authors, Isabella Eckerle and Benjamin Meyer, said: “In light of these findings, any proposed approach to achieve herd immunity through natural infection is not only highly unethical, but also unachievable.”

It is important to note that the quoted article does state that the results of these studies have not yet been peer reviewed. The piece continues:

Katie Doores of King’s College London, the UK study’s lead author, said the findings could be a sign that any future vaccine for the coronavirus would need to be provided regularly for people to maintain immunity.

“People are producing a reasonable antibody response to the virus, but it’s waning over a short period of time and depending on how high your peak is, that determines how long the antibodies are staying around,” she said.

“Infection tends to give you the best-case scenario for an antibody response, so if your infection is giving you antibody levels that wane in two to three months, the vaccine will potentially do the same thing,” she added. “People may need boosting and one shot might not be sufficient.”

In an interview with Sky News reported by The Guardian, professor Robin Shattock of Imperial College London said that while reinfection would probably be “less severe” because of people retaining “immune memory,” the risk of them passing on the virus meant they would likely have to receive boosts of the vaccine on a regular basis.

“Ultimately this may require the use of annual boosting immunizations, particularly for the most vulnerable. This could be delivered alongside annual influenza immunizations,” he said.

Your Maximum Leader wonders if the researcher he heard on the radio or podcast was Katie Doores or Robin Shattock. Regardless of that, this caused your Maximum Leader to think a little harder in the vein in which his thoughts about COVID-19 had been progressing. Namely, what if an effective vaccine is not found? Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure about you, but he isn’t sure that a vaccine that only lasts 2-3 months is all that effective. On the one hand, 2-3 months of immunity is about the length of a flu season. But so far we are seeing that COVID-19 doesn’t seem to have a “season.” It appears to like all the times of the year. So it may not a question of getting your “flu shot” annually, but getting it quarterly. That doesn’t seem very good, at least not when you start to wonder about where your Maximum Leader’s mind went next.

Suppose any potential COVID-19 vaccine IS only effective for 2-3 months. And let’s further suppose that it has no side effects. And let’s further suppose that it is cheap and available in sufficient quantities so as to allow anyone who wants one to get one. It this going to be enough to satisfy people that “life” and economic activity can resume and become “normal?” Given how polarizing and hysterical people are right now, he can’t envision a situation where this sort of vaccine is going to be regarded as a significant improvement. What happens then? Do schools continue to be (effectively) closed? Will prisoners be released because jail is too dangerous? Will restaurants, gyms, and sporting events have to operate at minimal levels? What about anti-vaccers?

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t have answers. Further, he is not bothered too much by things out of his control at this point. This is more a mental exercise more than anything. Your Maximum Leader wonders if someone, somewhere is thinking about this and trying to plan… Someone at the CDC? The Department of Health and Human Services? The Pentagon? He doesn’t know.

What he does know is that if the past 4 months have been any indication, the shit-show will get shittier.

Carry on.

A Few Thoughts, June 23, 2020.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will share a few disjointed thoughts with you all…

- As your Maximum Leader tweeted recently, no one will ever be woke enough. The mob will turn on you. The revolution will eat its own. No one will ever be pure enough to pass the zeal of the examiners.

- Your Maximum Leader voted (in person) today in the Democratic Primary. Seriously, he did. He voted for the least odious of the two candidates running for a chance to take on incumbent Congressman Rob Whitman. Today notwithstanding, your Maximum Leader will vote to re-elect Whitman in November. Why did he not vote in the Republican primary? Well. Honestly, he had no idea what the positions were of the three men looking for a chance to unseat incumbent Senator Mark Warner (D). Once there is a winner in that race, he’ll learn about the candidate.

- Seriously… Your Maximum Leader honestly nearly forgot there was a primary today. He didn’t do much to educate himself on the candidates. He voted in the Democratic primary mainly because he actually knew who the two candidates were and was reasonably informed on their various positions…

- Your Maximum Leader snagged some of the Makers Mark Private Select bourbon for Virginia. There are two limited release, special bourbons just for sale in Virginia. Sadly, he was only able to get his hands on one of the two types released in the Commonwealth. He has the manager of his local ABC store on the lookout for the other…

- Your Maximum Leader has mostly moved back into his study. Readers may recall that a year ago your Maximum Leader took in an exchange student. At that time your Maximum Leader’s study was converted into a bedroom. It has now been (mostly) converted back. There are some objets d’art that need to be re-hung in the room. But the bookshelves are back and mostly full. But they are completely disorganized. It will take some time to put everything back in the proper place.

- Your Maximum Leader and Villainette #2 have been watching (rewatching for him, 1st time for her) Ken Burn’s “The Civil War.” Your Maximum Leader forgets how good it is. He is pleased that Villainette #2 has now grown to dislike George B. McClellan. (As one does.)

- Finally, your Maximum Leader wonders when the current civil unrest across our Republic will start to abate. There is much to say about it. Its causes. How it has progressed. What is says about us. What is might portend for the future. But that is all for another time.

Carry on.

Qui tacet consentit.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader really does love the film “A Man for All Seasons.” He loves it for a whole bunch of reasons that are not pertinent right now. But the title of this post comes from a scene in the film where Sir (Saint) Thomas More is on trial and he schools his prosecutors that he’s not spoke out against the King’s marriage and advises them that “Silence gives consent.” Your Maximum Leader, no Latin scholar, recently learned that the full Latin saying is: “Qui tacet consentire videtur, ubi loqui debuit ac potuit.” Or, in English,: “He who is silent, when he ought to have spoken and was able to, is taken to agree.” (Thanks Wikipedia!)

Your Maximum Leader has not written specifically about what is going on in our country right now. Frankly, other than a very few people who have asked him personally about his thoughts on current events, he’s not expressed himself much on the subject. He is now reading and seeing on the news a good number of celebrities, politicians, and ordinary people making declarations that if you “aren’t speaking out, you’re part of the problem.” Since civil society is not a court of law, and we are not engaging in contracts, and your Maximum Leader is not invested with real authority over others, his silence is not meaningful one way or another in a legal sense. He is, however, a little disturbed by the subtext of “not speaking out” means that he’s “part of the problem.” Have we really gotten to the point where we have to announce our opinions on every matter that is reported on the news or in the moment seems to be of public concern? Thanks to social media do we have to disclose to everyone what we think or feel about anything at any given time? Are we supposed to volunteer our opinions in times of heated, passionate, and sometimes irrational discourse so that they can be parsed by anyone with a grievance? Perhaps we are there now. That thought is troubling in a number of ways.

So for what does your Maximum Leader’s silence imply consent? Does he consent to black Americans being killed by the police? Does he consent to peaceful protests? Does he consent to armed men killing a black jogger? Does he consent to rioting in the streets? Does he approve of the political response to all of these issues? Of course the answer is that your Maximum Leader knows his own mind on these things and anything that is construed by another is just inference.

Your Maximum Leader does have opinions on these matters. He’s actually started a post on current events. But the events have changed quickly enough that what he’s written doesn’t seem to adequately capture the spirit of what is going on at any given moment. He may choose to write more in the coming days, or he may not. (He also may have a post in him about the Villainschloss and the joys of home ownership and having a schloss full of people…)

Carry on.

Quaranta Giorni

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader thought he’d learned something this week. As it turns out, it is more like he learned something, thought about it some, realized he’d probably learned it at some point in the past but forgotten it. Does that count as learning? Re-learning perhaps. Or just “remembering” more accurately.

Regardless, that which your Maximum Leader re-learned/remembered is the origin of the word Quarantine. It comes from Italian, and specifically the Venetian dialect of Italian. The term quaranta giorni which means “40 days.” The words quaranta giorni were apparently shortened to “quarantina” and that word made its way into English as quarantine. Why 40 days? You have probably guessed already, but here is the story. During the period of the Republic of Venice, when the city-state was a major maritime trading power (and naval power in the Mediterranean in general) when ships would come into the lagoon they would be inspected. Ships found to have sick/infested/plague-ridden crew (or goods) were not allowed to dock in the city of Venice proper. They were directed to the small islands of Lazzaretto Vecchio or San Lazzaro Nuvo which sit off the Lido. There, the ships, cargo, and crews would remain for 40 days. After that 40 day period they could proceed to Venice proper. One of your Maximum Leader’s favorite websites, Atlas Obscura, has a great article on this subject called “The Black Death in Venice and the Dawn of Quarantine.” He commends the article to you.

NB: Your Maximum Leader has considered buying the book from the Atlas Obscura article, but it is a little dear. Furthermore, your Maximum Leader isn’t sure he is going to read a rather academic sounding book right now. But still, $64? Yikes!

Earlier this week, after reading the Atlas Obscura article, your Maximum Leader thought to himself that he couldn’t believe that he’d never read about quaranta giorni in any of the many books on Venice he’s read during his life. So today he went into the stacks (as it were) and checked a few of his books on Venice. Sure enough, there were references to quaranta giorni. So your Maximum Leader is left to conclude that he probably encountered this piece of trivia before, but forgot it at some point.

Interestingly, but not unsurprisingly, given our current global pandemic situation, your Maximum Leader has seen reference to the origin of the word quarantine several times this week. He finds it funny that he has seen it so many times this week, but not in the previous weeks of the pandemic. We have, after all, been effectively in quarantine (at least here in VA) since March. Your Maximum Leader can’t help but wonder if Atlas Obscura is a more read website than he thought. They published the article on May 11. By May 16th he’d seen this reference at least 3 times, including in this peice from CNN article on the future of Venice.

If your Maximum Leader had a bunch of money laying about, and a valid passport*, he would go to Venice right now. As readers of this space know, he desperately wants to visit Venice. In fact, if he were (heaven forfend) to be told that he only had six months to live, he would quit everything and go to Venice. It would be his last trip on this earth. It is the top of his bucket list. He would love to see Venice now. There would not a lot of tourists. There would be clear water (and sea life) in the canals. There would likely be some good deals on hotels as well. Though honestly your Maximum Leader doubts that the two hotels at which your Maximum Leader would like to stay in Venice (the Hotel Danieli** or the Gritti Palace Hotel) run deals. He would be quite surprised to learn that they do.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t have the cash laying about for such a trip. Also, Mrs. Villain has declared that she is “not willing to risk the health or life” of any member of the family just to go on vacation. (There is some additional context to this quotation that your Maximum Leader may share later, but not right now.) So there is that…

* - You read that correctly. Your Maximum Leader no longer has a valid passport. It is sad. He discovered this in November of last year. He had planned to get it renewed this spring. But according to the State Department, renewals can take 6 months at this point. The State Department further claims that when the COVID-19 quarantine is lifted their backlog will disappear quickly. They recommend waiting to renew.

** - Your Maximum Leader’s dream Venetian vacation would be to spend a week in the Doge’s Suite at the Hotel Danieli. He would spend his days wandering throughout the city at his own pace. Darting into any church, museum, shop, or eatery that struck his fancy. He would also like to see an opera at La Fenice. He’d prefer to see a Verdi opera at La Fenice, but isn’t going to be picky. And every night of his stay he would like to have a pevarini cookie and a Bellini cocktail every night before bed. Of course, this is a dream. Just like being a maximum leader…

Carry on.

Wasting time.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was taking care of some financial matters tonight and thought that when he was finished with them he would try to finish a post about reopening America that he’s been writing in fits and starts. Well… That didn’t happen. Instead he wound up spending time listening to some John Prine and Emmylou Harris. So here is some of that to which he was listening.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader thinks that Emmylou Harris grown more beautiful as she’s grown older.)

Some John Prine:
Dear Abby:

Jesus the Missing Years:

In Spite of Ourselves:

And the last song from his last album, When I get to Heaven:

Now some Emmylou:

Emmylou with Dolly and Linda singing the Sweetest Gift:

More of Emmylou and others (Allison Krauss & Jillian Welch) singing Go To Sleep Little Baby:

Emmylou singing Pancho & Lefty:

And one of my favorites, Red Dirt Girl:

It wasn’t all Prine and Harris though…

This Mark Knopfler song snuck into the mix as well:

And he listened to this tribute to Emmylou that he’s liked for quite a while:

Carry on.

Who are your people?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was going to try and finish a post about opening versus not opening our economy in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. (NB: Is it Covid-19 or COVID-19? Your Maximum Leader thinks it should be in all caps, but he doesn’t want to hit and hold that shift or caps lock key. Lazy fingering.) But, he read David French’s column today and decided to write about it instead.

Many moons ago, when your Maximum Leader was in college, he was at a party. It wasn’t a college party with kegs, togas, and lots of grinding on a dance floor tacky with spilt beer. It was a real dinner party with grown adults. Men wore sports jackets and ties (at a minimum). Women wore dresses. Before dinner there were hors d’oeuvres on silver trays walked through the room by servers my age (my age back then anyway). There were cocktails with top shelf booze. Then for dinner you sat at a table where one needed to know which fork was for which course as well as which was a white wine glass and which a red wine glass. Your Maximum Leader was seated next to an aged lady from Richmond, VA. She had that wonderful Tidewater Virginia accent as she spoke. We engaged in friendly conversation through much of the dinner. At one point your Maximum Leader said something that made her laugh. When she stopped laughing she looked at him with a most serious expression and said, “You are such a delightful boy.” She continued, “I must know, who are your people?”

Your Maximum Leader must admit that he’d never been asked that question ever before. He stumbled for a moment and said, “My people? I’m an American from Virginia, like you ma’am.” Then she clarified, “No who are your people? Who are you descended from? I’m a Byrd myself.” Then your Maximum Leader got it. He replied that “his people” were nobodies from Scotland and England who settled in America like many others. (And didn’t move to Virginia until during/after World War II.) This disappointed her somewhat, but not enough to stop talking with him. It seems many in the room were descended from someone of note. (In case you were wondering, it was a dinner party for the Virginia Historical Society… About 1989 or so.)

That little anecdote came do him today when thinking about David French’s piece. French wasn’t writing about ancestry in general, though his ancestry is part of the essay. He was talking about tribes. Political tribes. Religious tribes. The confluence of the tribes of religion and politics. He was also writing about group think and confirmation bias. Here is a particularly salient bit when explaining “group polarization”:

The concept comes from a Cass Sunstein academic paper, published all the way back in 1999. Surveying the relevant social science, Sunstein said, “[I]n a striking empirical regularity, deliberation tends to move groups, and the individuals who compose them, toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own predeliberation judgments.”

In plain English, this means that when like-minded people gather, their views get more extreme. Our arguments reinforce one another to such an extent that the entire group will sometimes become more extreme than the most extreme person at the start of the deliberation. Think of it like this—when gun rights advocates (or gun control activists) gather, do they tend to leave the meeting doubting their positions or redoubled in their commitment to advocacy? How many people leave a good Bible study loving Jesus less?

It’s a nonpartisan, human phenomenon, and what’s so seductive about it is the fact that we can’t perceive the sheer tribalism because it’s accompanied by deliberation—by discussion and thought. We fool ourselves into believing our ideas or our intellects are in control when it is often our identity or our history.

This doesn’t mean that group deliberation is always wrong. A collection of abolitionists who met and grew in dedication to the abolitionist cause in Boston in 1860 were right. Unquestionably they were right. But what it does mean is that like-minded group deliberation is suspect, and it can be suspect even in a righteous cause. “The ends justifies the means” is a concept born in unanimity and fervor.

This passage, and French’s whole column actually, caused me to shiver. Shiver due to self-actualization. French writes about his Confederate ancestors taking up arms to defend slavery and he asks himself while he acknowledges the guilt he sometimes feels about his ancestry:

I don’t mean that in a guilty way, I’m somehow responsible for the actions of men who took up arms for an unjust cause more than a century before I was born. Instead, I mean that I’ve often asked myself, “What would I have done?”

Slavery was a monstrous evil. Yet generations of Americans grew up in communities that accepted it, defended it, and even celebrated it. How many abolitionist arguments did a child of the antebellum South ever hear? If they heard abolitionist arguments, did they hear them portrayed fairly, accurately, and sympathetically?

Putting aside the power of argument, did the witness of their own eyes and ears—the brutality that was plainly before them—provide them with sufficient cause to say, “No. I shall not defend such evil”?

That was the specific passage that caused your Maximum Leader to shiver. Often he finds himself asking silently, “what if things were different for me?” Your Maximum Leader recalls with vivid clarity the day he was sitting in a high school history class during a discussion of the Cold War (which was still ongoing at that point). Your Maximum Leader, a Reagan conservative then (and now he thinks - but then was actually during the Reagan Presidency), gave a rather rote recitation of why the USSR was in fact an “evil empire” and needed to be opposed. A dear and close friend, a friend then and now, made a glib remark that “Sure, you’re a good conservative here, but if you’d been born in the USSR you would be in the Young Communist League and be working to get your Order of Lenin before you graduate from college.” At the time the comment shocked your Maximum Leader. He actually took offense to it then. But even way back then (in 1986 or so) a seed was planted. Ever since then your Maximum Leader has taken more time than he cares to relate to you all wondering if his beliefs and biases are an accident of birth and the groups with which he affiliates himself, or if they are due to him actually reasoning out a belief system in which he actually believes.

If your Maximum Leader is being honest with you all, he feels about 60% of the time he has formed a belief system based on his reading, understanding, and assimilation of the ideas of numerous other smarter people than himself. But 40% of the time he does think it is all just an accident of birth.

So your Maximum Leader asks those of you who may still be reading (or may stumble across) this humble - and moribund - weblog to ask yourself this question, “Who are your people?” But don’t think about your ancestry, as Mrs. Byrd did. Think about the broader tribe to which you belong. Think long and hard about who are your people in life. With whom do you associate? Who do you follow on Twitter? Who are your Facebook friends? Who do you go out to lunch with? With whom do you really talk about meaningful things? Then think about what they might have in common and how that commonality is intensified in you. How that commonality is actually polarization causing you to be less open and responsive to others. Try to give “the other side” a kind thought, or at least an open-minded review, from time to time. We live in an age and time which is becoming more polarized. Your Maximum Leader is keenly aware to many those who don’t share their views are misguided, or wrong, or even evil and must be stopped. But consider their views openly, then examine your own with a jaundiced eye from time to time and be open to revelatory ideas.

Be aware of the tribe to which you belong, and recall David French’s words: “The tidal pull of tribalism should humble us all. For many of us, it renders our virtue an accident of history and birth. For others, it gives our sin and vice a terrible momentum that’s so very hard to reverse.” Try to be self-aware of your own sins and strive to overcome them.

Carry on.

PS: And speaking of who you follow on Twitter, follow your Maximum Leader.

PPS: And in case this was a little heavy, here is some related humorous perspective on this post.

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