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800 and 46

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader actually started to write a post. Actually there are, he sees, three draft posts in the hopper. If he can bring himself to finish them it will be a startling output for this blog given his recent posting habits.

Before today was out, June 15, 2015, he did want to make note (in passing) of today being the 800th Anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta. Much hay is being made today about Magna Carta and what it does or doesn’t mean in the grand scheme of history and the Anglo-American legal/constitutional system. You have pedants who declaim that we, today, put much more value on the document than it was granted from 1215 to the 19th Century. Others say that Magna Carta is one in a long line of charters that all form the basis of the British Constitution. Still others say it is the bedrock upon which all of the British Constitution rests.

As with most claims of this sort, there is a kernel of truth to them all. Your Maximum Leader, personally, likes to think of Magna Carta as the first significant step towards our modern concept of liberty. Although only three clauses of Magna Carta still hold sway in Britain (chief among them the “right” of habeas corpus - a right for which all of us in the west should be thankful), it was the process of reissuing the charter over the reigns of monarchs after King John and the slow expansion of rights that are what we are celebrating today.

In case you want to read more here are some links for ye:

The Economist has a short piece for you.

Here is the Prince of Wales’ speech about Magna Carta at the opening of an exhibit on the charter at the British Library.

Here is a piece on the “myths” of Magna Carta.

This is another great piece in The Economist on Magna Carta and William Marshall. (Don’t know who William Marshall is? You can click here to find out about one of Medieval England’s greatest Lords from Wikipedia or (even better) Badass of the Week.)

Take a moment today to lift a glass (of wine, beer - your choice) and toast the Great Charter.

Oh yes… And if you care to know… Today is also your Maximum Leader’s 46th birthday. He mentions this because when he was dating Mrs Villain (years ago) she asked what his birthday was. He wouldn’t tell her. She asked for a clue. He responded that his birthday was on the same date as Magna Carta being sealed in 1215. She was quite cross when she had to find a history book and look up the date when he wouldn’t relent and just tell her.

Carry on.

Groan

Groan.

Stretch.

Groan.

Creak. Snap.

Smack.

Groan.

Are these the sounds of something coming awake?

The More Things Change…

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has found himself wondering about his political leanings. It would be wrong to say that the old lark from Ronald Reagan hasn’t crossed his mind a few times. You remember the one. Reagan said that he didn’t leave the Democrat party, the Democrat party left him. Well… It isn’t quite the same, but your Maximum Leader wonders exactly how his own political views, and they apply in a practical way in America today, have changed.

At some level your Maximum Leader doesn’t think his politics have changed much. But political discourse (such as it is) has gone in a way that he just doesn’t care for. Your Maximum Leader would still call himself a Conservative in almost all cases. He thinks he is more a Conservative with Libertarian tendencies. In some instances he would even call himself a Republican.

Your Maximum Leader finds himself looking at the Presidencies of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon and seeing more and more that he likes. Of course, he says the same thing when looking at Ronald Reagan. Sometimes he looks back at the great Theodore Roosevelt and sees a lot to like.

They were, compared to today, different ages.

Your Maximum Leader recalls some old line that goes something to the effect that “the next Marlon Brando wont be anything like the last Marlon Brando. We should say the same thing about the “next Ronald Reagan.” He’ll not be anything like the last one. In large part because he doesn’t have to be. Reagan’s time is gone. It is fading, even now, into distant history. Your Maximum Leader’s children are being taught (poorly in many cases) about history that your Maximum Leader remembers living through. The next Reagan doesn’t need to win the Cold War; that is done. The next Nixon doesn’t need to open China or start Detente with the Soviets; that is past. The next Eisenhower doesn’t need to end the Korean War, build interstate highways and stabilize the West after WWII; that was done (but is coming undone). The next Theodore Roosevelt doesn’t need to bust trusts, build a great Navy, flex US muscles and move forward Progressive reforms; done (but perhaps coming undone).

It was in thinking about the past that your Maximum Leader had a little mini-epiphany about his politics. The problem with politicians, at least of the right, is they don’t seem to be forward looking. Your Maximum Leader has for years admired the old William F. Buckley adage of standing athwart history yelling stop. As your Maximum Leader has grown older he’s come to believe that politicians of the right have got to not only yell stop; but suggest a path forward. That path forward cannot just be an exhortation to go back to the way things were.

Your Maximum Leader is guilty, as he suspects we all are to some degree, of looking back more fondly on a remembered past that is remembered better than it was lived. He finds he has to lift the gauze from his own memories when looking backwards and be more critical of what he sees in the past. He must strive to find balance. A balance that needs to be restored across the board. The past is never quite as good or bad as one wants to make it out to be. The 50’s might not have been the greatest time in history for women or minorities in America - when compared to 2015. But the 50’s in America for women and minorities was better than the 1930s, 1920s or 1880s for them.

So what does all this have to do with your Maximum Leader’s politics?

Well… Certain core items have not changed at all (or at least not very much) for your Maximum Leader. He still is a strong believer of limited government. He is a strong believer in personal liberty and freedom. His first reaction to appeals to the “greater common good” is skepticism and negativity. But how these all pan out in America today seem to be changing…

Let us say that your Maximum Leader has decided, for himself of course, that there are things the government needs to do. And in those things it must do them well. To do them well may not always mean to do them cheaply, or in a way that makes everyone feel good about themselves. It means do them well…

Let us take a few broad items that most people living in the United States would consider things the government should do… And since, in the United States we live under a multi-tiered government let me start with the lowest level of government. One’s county or state government.

As Government teachers (aka: Political Scientists - a term for which your Maximum Leader has a fair degree of contempt to be honest) have lamented for ages, local government has the most affect on a person’s daily life - and is the one to which most people pay the least attention. Your local government is most likely responsible for a few things that are remarkably important for the functioning of civilization. Police & Fire/Rescue, education, and property use. If your county is anything like mine, it is funded by property taxes. Your taxes go to provide for Police & Fire/Rescue, local schools, and how your county is “developed.” Your Maximum Leader thinks that we can all agree that most people are in favor of Police & Fire/Rescue services. All but the most hardcore libertarians and anarchists are in favor of them at any rate. And most people would want those services to be provided by well-trained, well-equipped and competent people. That training, equipment and recruitment and retention of people all comes from your tax money. When you don’t want to pay those taxes, your Police/Fire/Rescue services all suffer. The same goes for education. If you want well-trained, well-equipped and competent teachers; you have to shell out some money in taxes. In fact, your Maximum Leader is happy to pay a few cents more on the dollar in real estate tax in order to assure that the Policemen, Firemen, Rescue Teams and Teachers are the best possible. It seems a little fool-hearty to save $100 a year in property taxes if it means that good teachers are going to leave the county for more money in the next county over… Then there is property usage… If you like green hills, wood and rolling farmland in your neck of the woods, then you have to pay for that too. Your Maximum Leader is sure that your county has laws on the books telling you what you can and can’t do with your land. Those same laws tell developers what they can build in your county. Those laws need enforcement - enforcement costs money. If you don’t want a 500 home community going in across the road from your house, that costs money too. It costs you in more property taxes. If your county can’t develop land, and you still want them to provide services; it will cost you more. You are paying the opportunity cost of not having 500 neighbors (all paying property taxes) across the road from you.

NB on Education: Here is a libertarian streak your Maximum Leader has. Public education. As a society we seem to have come to the common agreement that it is the role of government to fund and provide education to all. Your Maximum Leader is a strong supporter of education as the bedrock upon which a strong republic rests. But he honestly isn’t committed to the idea that the government has to provide that education. He is completely open to the government not collecting any of his money to support education and having the free market provide schools and educational opportunities for children and adults. Your Maximum Leader is sure this idea is a complete non-starter. But he wants to throw out there that there are some things the government DOES that it DOESN’T NECESSARILY HAVE to do. Your Maximum Leader’s point here is that if the government is going to do something - particularly at the level closest to me and most responsive to my input - it ought to do it well. If the state is going to do a half-assed job of educating children; then perhaps the state shouldn’t educate children.

NB on Education Part Deux: If there are any “liberals” reading this (which frankly your Maximum Leader highly doubts); you guys do a lot of complaining about “religious freaks” taking over school boards and “getting rid of science” to teach “intelligent design” or “creationism.” Do you all know how to stop this from happening? Vote in a friggin’ election for school board you morons! Take my own voting district in my county. In the last election for our school board member (2013), there were 5,058 votes cast. The winner won by a margin of 449 votes. For comparative purposes, Barack Obama garnered 5,380 votes in the same district in 2012 and lost to Mitt Romney (who got 6,707 votes). If you are fearful that your school board is going to be “taken over” by “weirdos” it would help your cause to vote against the “weirdos.” For the record, my own school board member (Hey Scott!) is not a weirdo.

Moving up from the local government - the most essential level of government in your Maximum Leader’s opinion - is the state government. As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows, your Maximum Leader is generally well-disposed to his state government. Sure he thinks that his current governor is a smarmy political hack; but our governor is only half of the equation. The legislature is the other half. And all in all the friction between the two is a good thing. Lets also think of things our state government does that everyone agrees it should do. Strangely enough we come back to police and education; but we add infrastructure to that as well. Of course your state does more than those items. Here in Virginia the Governor has wanted to dramatically increase the amount of Medicare spending (and take advantage of Federal dollars for the same). The legislature blocked that move on the grounds that the Feds might be paying now, but they probably will not be forever and once you take on the spending you can’t “un-take” it. (A position supported by your Maximum Leader by the way.) It is at the state level that one can really begin arguing over the role of government and what is should or shouldn’t support through your tax dollars. Your Maximum Leader generally favors spending on education and roads, and is less inclined towards other spending.

Of course, your Maximum Leader also realizes that we live in a republic and his voice is not the only voice in the conversation. So he recognizes that as much as he would often like complete stalemate and nothing be done (and nothing is often a wise and desirable political outcome) that isn’t going to happen. As much as he doesn’t like it, he lives with a Democrat Governor and a Republican Legislature and the two are going to have to compromise to get anything done. And here’s the rub… Something, even small things, has to get done. Ultimately the majority of people are going to be dissatisfied if nothing - truly nothing - gets done. They will cast the blame where they may; but in the end people aren’t going to stand for no schools, no roads, and no police/courts/prisons etc… The people will stand for “things aren’t changing this year from last year” but they will not stand for “everything is closed because we can’t agree.” Sometimes, in critical issues, half a loaf is better than no loaf. (We all prefer to get 3/4 a loaf of course, but is isn’t always going to happen. And people who are often stuck with the 1/4 loaf start to get mighty resentful…)

Then there is the Federal level. The most distant level of government. The most costly level of government. The most dysfunctional level of government. It is at the level of the Federal government that your Maximum Leaders beliefs have changed (he thinks) the least. The Federal Government of the United States is bloated, ineffective, and has its tentacles in things it has no business being in. Federal education policy - crap. Federal housing and urban development policy - crap. Indeed, in your Maximum Leader’s view the Federal government should be busy keeping the nation safe, conducting foreign affairs, broadly regulating interstate commerce and that is about it.

To read that last paragraph you are probably thinking that your Maximum Leader has lots in common with Herbert Hoover. Well… Yes and no… Certainly in an intellectual sense your Maximum Leader is rather aligned with that Pre-New Deal vision of America. But that America is gone. That America is not coming back. Ron Paul and all the Libertarians out there can burn me in effigy now. We aren’t going back to that era in our history…

This is where your Maximum Leader thinks that people of the Right need to have a vision of America moving forward. For years your Maximum Leader has (as Ronald Reagan did) advocate the elimination of the US Department of Education. Well… Guess what… It ain’t happening. But what could happen is that the Department of Education could be reformed and greatly reduced. It could be more of a US Department of Educational Resources and Standards. It could be like a think tank that state and local governments could access to make their own systems work more effectively. It could be a clearing house for ideas about Education.

Think about healthcare. The largest parts of the Federal budget are Medicaid and Medicare spending (and one supposes spending on the Affordable Care Act is in there too). Frankly these are areas that your Maximum Leader feels the Federal government shouldn’t be involved in. Period. But at this stage a full roll-back isn’t going to happen. It isn’t going to happen for Medicaid or Medicare. And frankly it is getting to the point were it isn’t going to happen with ACA either. A plan is needed by the Right to move forward. Your Maximum Leader liked a plan so much that he blogged about it back in 2004. Your Maximum Leader is saying that alternatives need to be out there - not just standing athwart history yelling stop.

So that’s the screed… Such as it is… Is your Maximum Leader growing more liberal in his old age? Probably not. Is he getting a little more nuanced? Perhaps. Is he feeling less and less like he can identify with politicians seeking to represent him? Certainly…

If some of your Maximum Leader’s more conservative friends feel the need to revoke his conservative card and drum him out of the movement… So be it. As you can read here… I denounce myself…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Political Leaning Quiz & Washington Quiz

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader saw, a few days (weeks?) ago a political quiz over on Kevin’s site. He is a sucker for these things so he took the quiz. Here are his results:

 on political map

No big surprise there. Of course, if you like you can take the test by clicking here.

Your Maximum Leader will say that he does think he is trending a little more “liberal” in some aspect of his thinking. But these “liberal” tendencies are manifesting themselves in local issues concerning school funding and real estate tax levels in his county…

Your Maximum Leader also hopes that you didn’t miss George Washington’s 283rd birthday. (Which was yesterday.) As readers (such as there may still be) know, your Maximum Leader is a huge fan of George Washington and believes that we (Americans) need to study him a little more in hopes of raising civic awareness (and perhaps even civic virtue).

Here are some quizzes to test your what you know about the Father of our Country.

Quiz 1 click here. (Your Maximum Leader scored 15 of 15 on this quiz.)

There is a second (harder) quiz on Washington. Quiz 2 (the smarty pants edition) is here. Your Maximum Leader (sadly) only got 12 of 15 on the really hard quiz. Though in his defense, of the three he missed, had narrowed the choices to the correct answer (that he didn’t choose) and an incorrect answer…

There you are. Toast George Washington and think about his service to our great nation…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

A Longer Than A Tweet Thought on the Oscars

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader did not watch the Academy Awards last night. In fact, he doesn’t watch award shows. He is more than satisfied (no really much more than satisfied) to read tweets about the show and catch a few highlights the next morning. That is about all he can take. Some highlights.

This weekend was all about Oscar though at the Villainschloss. There was some Oscar show on CNN that Mrs. Villain insisted on watching in full. Then she decided that the Oscar telecast was going to be more interesting than Mythbusters re-runs and last week’s episode of “The Americans.” Since your Maximum Leader wasn’t interested in watching (the generally fabulous) Neil Patrick Harris, et. al., doing their Hollywood thing, he retired to his bed and watched Mythbusters re-runs. (He occasionally checked Twitter to see what had been awarded.)

Well… This morning, Mrs. Villain was commenting on the various winners and production numbers. Then she threw out there “You know, I don’t understand why actors think they can lecture everyone on political stuff when they are up there getting their award. What qualifies them as experts on anything other than make-believe?” Your Maximum Leader responded that not wanting to be lectured on politics/current events/anything by actors is generally one reason why he doesn’t watch award shows. But he did note that actors are entitled to the same free-speech rights as the rest of us and can exercise it when they feel it is appropriate. But just because they have that right doesn’t mean they are more (or less) qualified to opine on an issue than anyone else. Sadly people may give disproportionate weight to the opinion of a celebrity because of the renown of the person making the comment. Your Maximum Leader is more likely to give more weight to the opinions of Elizabeth Warren on wage inequality than he would to those comments by Patricia Arquette; but both are welcome to comment on the issue.

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader didn’t watch the show. But this week he is going to watch two nominated films. (The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman.)

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

La France

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been thinking a lot about France recently. You may believe that his ruminations on France began with the terrorist attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and on the kosher grocery store in Paris. But you’d be wrong. Your Maximum Leader was thinking about France over the Christmas holiday. He’s been listening to a very good podcast on the French Revolution – as well as taking time to glance through some of the (sadly too few) books on French history he owns.

Part of what your Maximum Leader has been thinking about is how to work out his own feelings towards the French Republic…

As anyone who has spent any time with your Maximum Leader (or any time on this blog over the years) knows, he is not what one would call a Francophile. But, he’s not a Francophobe either. He’s viewed his own feelings towards France with mixed emotions over his life. Your Maximum Leader has not traveled to France, so will likely have some bearing on his feelings at some point but he should list off a few items for your consideration. Your Maximum Leader appreciates and loves many elements of French culture. He would be a liar if he didn’t say he loves French food (both “high” French and “Provençal” and “low” French food. He loves a lot of French art. (Like anyone, he likes some movements and not others.) And he loves the idea of the French lifestyle that is mostly stereotypically imagined by Americans and exists to a lesser extent every year in France. (You know what he’s talking about here. Going to the bakery for bread every day. Sitting and having an afternoon break at a café. Leisurely early evening meals, home cooked, around a big table with family.) Frankly, any your Maximum Leader might be an exception here, he’s never met and interacted with a French citizen that he didn’t like. (As an aside, your Maximum Leader doesn’t have many regrets about his college years; but one minor regret his has is not asking a French exchange student who attended his college out on a date. Long story, if you’re interested write him and he’ll tell you all about it…)

At the same time that your Maximum Leader has all of this good will built up on behalf of France, he also has some ill will. Or if not ill will, certainly less than positive will. Your Maximum Leader has mocked the French as “cheese eating surrender monkeys.” Of course that appellation isn’t completely fair, even in the context of World War II, if one understands the times in which France was surrendering… And he’s been annoyed by French foreign policy more times than he can remember. (The first one he can recall was Francois Mitterand refusing to let US bombers over-fly France to go after Quaddaffi in Libya back in the Reagan years… That is the first of many…) Your Maximum Leader thinks that institutions dedicated to the preservation of “true” French culture and language are sort of silly. (He’s looking at you Academie Francaise.)

So basically, your Maximum Leader loves “the French” but doesn’t always love “France.” He’s sure that many Frenchmen would say the same (or much the same) about “the United States of America” and “Americans.”

Then your Maximum Leader had an epiphany. A true a ha moment.

France is our beloved first cousin who always annoys the crap out of us.

Yup. That is it. Your Maximum Leader’s “France is the USA’s first cousin” political theory.

Hear him out on this.

Are you close with your first cousins? Your Maximum Leader means really close. Like you grew up in the same town. You see each other all the time, not just at the holidays. You go over to their house. They come to yours. You go on vacation together. You are always there with them. But, their upbringing isn’t quite the same. Though in the same town, you go to different schools. You get involved in different activities. Perhaps you go to different churches (or no church at all).

You are very similar, but in some very important ways very dissimilar. You might be a good kid and a conformer, but that cousin of yours just wants to buck the system when they can. You are a loyal boyfriend (or girlfriend) and your cousin is something of a playboy (Playgirl? “Playa?”) You do your homework all the time and get good grades, and your cousin is something of a slacker. You are serious, and your cousin is a clown. You love your cousin, you both get along and like to be together. But there are things your cousin does that are just a part of who they are – things they can’t change and don’t want to change; things that just annoy the shit out of you.

That is the Franco-American relationship.

Both nations are born of the Judeo-Christian Western tradition. Both were born in revolution. Both are constitutional republics that value liberty. And we both annoy the shit out of each other.

It annoys your Maximum Leader that the French want to be part of Europe, and part of NATO, and leaders in the world; but they have to do everything their way. Their way is one that often seems contrarian for the sake of being contrarian.

Your Maximum Leader has come to realize that the US needs France, and the world needs France. Your Maximum Leader would like nations to see the US as the ultimate leader on the side of history and civilization that favors individual liberty, individual rights and responsibilities, and equality for all under commonly determined law. But the world is not a simple place and many of the actors on the world scene, for some mad reason, don’t trust the US to be a fair actor. Perhaps this is a consequence of a cold war where everyone had to pick a side and stick to their side. During the Cold War, France did its best to present herself as a western alternative to both the US and USSR.

The more your Maximum Leader thinks on it, that Cold War role and how it has developed in the post-Cold War world is an important one. France is an important “pole” in the modern multi-polar world. If France gets on your Maximum Leader’s nerves from time to time, it is because they need to.

Anyhow… Those are some thoughts on France…

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

Happy New Year & German Babies

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wishes you a prosperous and happy 2015. The first few days of this new year haven’t been all that bad. Your Maximum Leader attended the NHL Winter Classic at Nationals Park on January 1st. That game will go down as one of the best sports memories of his life. It was great at so many levels… If you are a hockey fan and have a chance to go to a Winter Classic; you should.

Of course, your Maximum Leader was prepared for a long day outside on January 1 because he got a good night’s sleep on the night of December 31 to January 1. Your Maximum Leader has decided that from now on he celebrates New Years according to Greenwich Mean Time. That meant that he was toasting the new year at 7:00pm local time. It worked out well because it was right in the middle of a nice dinner. Your Maximum Leader was able to enjoy a meal, have a drink, then take a leisurely shower and retire to bed and get a full night’s sleep. He woke at his normal time (feeling no worse for wear) and carried on throughout the day.

Yesterday was the day when, for reasons of convenience mostly, your Maximum Leader “celebrated” Christmas with his family. His parents and sister (and sister’s family) came to the Villainschloss. We dined on pork tenderloin and a host of sides. One of those sides was Yorkshire Pudding. While most people associate Yorkshire Pudding with roast beef, it really can be had with almost any land-based roasted protein.

Well… Your Maximum Leader’s family are real fans of Yorkshire Pudding. We tend to eat quite a bit of it when we have it. So your Maximum Leader made a huge batch of the pudding batter and cooked it up in batches as the family was together. By cooking in smaller pans and smaller batches the pudding is always fluffy and hot when it is consumed.

Anyhoo… Your Maximum Leader over prepared the batter and had quite a bit left uncooked at the end of the day. Mrs. Villain thought this was great because that meant that we could have “german babies” for breakfast the next day (which is today as I write this). Your Maximum Leader was taken aback. What were these “german babies” and why would we be eating them? It seemed a little much to start in on the cannibalism so soon in the new year and with our larder being pretty full. It was then that Mrs. Villain explained that close friends of hers growing up would make Yorkshire Pudding batter and cook the pudding in muffin tins and would take them from the oven and serve them for breakfast covered in maple syrup and confectioners sugar. This dish was known as a “german baby.”

This morning your Maximum Leader cooked up the last of the Yorkshire Pudding batter and did serve it up with maple syrup and confectioners sugar. It was pretty tasty all in all. Your Maximum Leader has even found a formal recipe for “german babies.” You can clicken here to see it. (And if you want a more glorified recipe there is one here. There is also a related Wiki page for “Dutch Baby Pancakes.”)

So there we are… Your Maximum Leader consumed german babies for breakfast this morning. And he liked it.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on the Twitter: @maximumleader

But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.

Greeting, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is taking a break from real life to wish you all (such number of ye as there may be) a Merry Christmas.

There is so much that your Maximum Leader would like to write about, but he finds little time. (A constant refrain in this space…) What have we learned this year? Well, apparently some grand juries will not indict a ham sandwich or a police officer. (Some) People apparently like to demonstrate and riot over grand jury decisions. Some students believe the mental toll of following the news entitles them to make-up exams. Russians can shoot down jets with impunity. Some national airways can lose whole jet aircraft. The President can act monarchally when it comes to immigration issues. US voters will be contrarian in voting. Petulant asian dictators can determine what films will be shown in US cinemas. And it is possible that your Maximum Leader might not have to wait for the death of the Castro Brothers to visit Cuba…

That is a lot of stuff…

But what does all of it speak to? Is there a greater point in any of this news? A few days ago your Maximum Leader tweeted (follow him on the Tweety-box @maximumleader) the following pithy line:

Your Maximum Leader’s best bud, Kevin, asked for a more expansive exposition on this little tweeted aphorism. (Then he got in a - deserved - dig about how this blog is never updated…) Well… Here is a little more on that thought…

First off, perhaps your Maximum Leader should have written: Civility is the spanx holding in the barbarism of humanity. This thought came to your Maximum Leader as he was sitting down contemplating why he is an observant Catholic. In a meandering stream of thoughts your Maximum Leader eventually thought back to a lecture he once heard (and took notes upon) in college. The theme of this particular lecture was how many upper-middle class Victorians in Britain had the foundations of their social thinking shaken by scientific advancements but continued to behave as they had “for the good of society.” To restate this, science had cast doubts on long-held traditional beliefs. Evolution is the chief example of this, shaking the belief of traditional Christian Creationism. While these people were having to try to sort out what the basis of civilization itself should be, they continued to do the things they’d always done - like going to church on Sunday, acting like gentlemen and ladies and all the other tell-tale outward signs of being civilized.

Your Maximum Leader started to think to himself that our civilization is a very tenuous thing. This isn’t a new thought to him, or others. But for some reason that day the thought weighed heavily on his mind. Then, his mind moved from the sublime to the silly. He imagined the “body” of all humanity being constrained by nothing more than some shaped spandex. Humanity’s true nature has to be hidden, shaped as best as possible actually, by a thin veneer of something else. Civility is that thin veneer that keeps all the fat and bulging of our corpulent humanity in any sort of shape. Of course, over time the spanx wear out and cease to hold in that which they are designed to hold in… Your Maximum Leader wonders if the spanx of our civilization isn’t being pretty sorely tested by the mass of barbarous fat straining to break free…

Of course, this time of year should not be spent dwelling on the unpleasantness in the world… We should try to elevate our thoughts and celebrate the possibility of humanity’s advancement. The Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar resets itself every year in Advent. One of the priests at your Maximum Leader’s parish suggested that like the church resetting the liturgical calendar each of us should try to reset our own personal quest towards living a life more in the image and likeness of Christ. Your Maximum Leader is sure that priests across the world, an ministers of every denomination, have preached the same message. Through our free will we have the potential for salvation. Your Maximum Leader wants to think this salvation is more than just spiritual salvation, but we can have societal salvation. We may not agree politically on items, but your Maximum Leader hopes that we in the United States (at least) can see the benefits our shared Anglo-Western-Judeo-Christian civilization and take steps to preserve it.

Oh… The silly things your Maximum Leader wishes for at Christmas…

Anyhoo…

Tis the season to read over the Gospel of Luke and perhaps contemplate its meaning. This year your Maximum Leader has been thinking a bit about Mary. Take this portion of Luke, Chapter 2:

8 And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock.
9 And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear.
10 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:
11 For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying:
14 Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.
15 And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us.
16 And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.
17 And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child.
18 And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Your Maximum Leader has always been struck by verse 19. “Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.”

There is not much in the Bible about Mary. The passages directly mentioning her are very few. But there is always a gem in there. Your Maximum Leader’s money is on Luke 2:19 as the greatest of these gems. What does it say about a young girl that she should experience all she had and was still able to take in what she had seen and heard and ponder its meaning? If you aren’t a Christian, still take a moment to think through all this. Your Maximum Leader speculates that most young girls of the first century AD who had just delivered a baby under less than ideal circumstances might not be reticent and ponder their situation with the grace or poise that he reads in this verse. Of course, if you a Christian, there is a lot more going on in that one line.

Your Maximum Leader would like more people to keep the words they hear or read about and ponder them in their hearts. A little more pondering and little less talking and shouting might do us all a bit of good in preserving civilization.

And now… El Greco…
The Adoration by El Greco

Peace and goodwill to you all.

Carry on.

Triumphant (+209 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 209th 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:

Nelson himself.
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.

Nelson

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

Nelson is shot
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.

Nelson is shot
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
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.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

This is why they play the games.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader stayed up well past his bedtime to watch what turned out to be the longest (by time played) playoff game in the history of baseball. Early this morning, your Maximum Leaders beloved Washington Nationals fell to the Giants of San Francisco by a score of 2-1 in an 18 inning game that lasted a tad over 6 hours.

The Nationals now trail in the best of 5 series 2-0. Game 3 is played in San Francisco on Monday.

It isn’t looking good for the Nationals. But, the joy of baseball is the unexpected outcomes it produces. You have to play the games to find out how it turns out. You can’t just write off teams that are down or because an opponent looks better on paper…

Your Maximum Leader hopes the Nationals pull off a three game win streak against the Giants…

And that is best thing about baseball… The hope.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter @maximumleader

Los Nationales

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure if his title for this post is correct. He didn’t study Spanish and for some reason can’t remember the Spanish rendering of the name of his beloved Washington Nationals that he looks at almost every night of the season on the backstop behind home plate…

Anyhooo….

Woo hoo! The Nationals clinched the National League East pennant last night in Atlanta after a victory against the division rival Braves. It was wonderful. Tanner Roark pitched great. Clippard and Storen came in to close out the win. There was (cheap) champagne, beer, and sparkling juice for all in the clubhouse after. (NB: Your Maximum Leader knew that Bryce Harper didn’t drink - due to his youth and religious convictions. But he learned last night that Denard Span does not drink either. File that away as a propos of nothing one thinks.)

Now the Nationals have to win more games to gain home field advantage for the playoffs. He hopes they can capture the best record in the NL (in case it comes down to a Nationals v. Dodgers series). We’ll see how that goes.

The questions facing the team, as your Maximum Leader sees them, are these: 1) What to do with Ryan Zimmerman when he returns? 2) What to do with Soriano? and 3) What pitchers to keep/start in the playoffs. As for #1, Zim’s status will have to hinge on how he looks when he comes back next week. It is hard to see him riding pine as a bench guy, but that might be the best place for him if he can’t get enough starts in the 11 remaining games of the season. As for #2, has your Maximum Leader mentioned how much he cannot stand - CANNOT ABIDE AT ALL - Alfonso Soriano. He is the WORST CLOSER EVAH! What makes him the worst evan? He pitches to contact. What in the name of Pete do you do with a closer that pitches to contact? Closers pitch heat. Closers strike you out. Pitchers don’t put the ball in play and hope that the defense makes the play. Your Maximum Leader would not shed a single tear if Soriano didn’t make the postseason pitching roster. As for #3, as your Maximum Leader sees it, the three best starters on the team are Fister, J. Zimmermann and Roark. You need to have Gio Gonzalez in there for a lefty. But if you look at the whole season of work, Strasburg is the weakest of the starters. His win/loss record is mostly out of his control (the Nats hardly ever support Strasburg offensively during his starts it seems). But Strasburg gives up the long ball early. We don’t need to have him start with the jitters and give up one or two runs in the playoffs and have to battle back. If your Maximum Leader was doing a rotation for the playoffs it would be Fister, Gonzalez, Zimmermann, Roark, Strasburg.

Well… Those are your Maximum Leader’s baseball musings for now… More as things develop.

The Nat’s curly “W”

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

More Musings on Scottish Independence

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader continues to ruminate on the idea of Scottish independence. Depending on who you read and believe, the “No” vote might still be ahead in the polls. Your Maximum Leader thinks it is generally agreed that it is pretty much neck and neck. It will be the proverbial photo finish.

As your Maximum Leader re-read his previous comments on this matter, he doesn’t have much new to say. He could (and will) point out some of the contradictions (or unreasonable aspirations) of the “Yes” campaign. Here are but a few: Scotland will be a member of NATO - but Scotland is going to throw out the nuclear sub bases from Glasgow and the Clyde. Those subs are a key part of NATO. Scotland will keep the pound - but the Bank of England isn’t going to give Scotland any control over the pound and Scottish banks are preparing to move south and to have to increase cash reserves. Scotland will be a part of the EU - but the EU says that Scotland will have to apply to join, a change of status isn’t going to cut it. (Also about the EU, the EU requires new members to adopt the Euro. So IF Scotland is allowed to join, they will use the Euro and have their monetary policy governed by the Bundesbank.) Scotland will have all the North Sea Oil money, and little of the UK’s debt - but England, Wales and Northern Ireland are going to (rightfully) insist that Scotland assume some portion of the debt.

If you’ve read anything about this campaign, you’ve heard all that. And if it didn’t convince you before, it didn’t convince you just then.

The more your Maximum Leader thought about it, the more he realized that Scottish independence is really another in a long line of “feel-good aspirational” movements. Frankly, as aspirational stories go, Scotland’s would be a great one. Country with a long (and storied - read bloody) history joins with historical enemy. They become frenemies for 300 years. But for those 300 years, Scotland feels like the junior partner. To be honest, though the 300 years are replete with examples of Scots doing great things around the world - shaping the whole world, quite literally; the majority of Scots feel like they are just put upon by the English. Western society “progresses” and Scots begin to think that they would be better off taking over their own affairs. So they agitate a bit (something Scots are particularly good at) and get more political power devolved down to their newly re-established parliament. Once they get some power, they want more. Eventually, they think that they should have complete self-determination and breakup with their frenemy. In the end it all boils down to “If we can do it ourselves it will all be better.”

There is a wonderful, childlike, and actually quite un-Scottish naive optimism behind the “Yes” movement. No matter what perceived roadblocks there might be, the attitude remains that it will be better if we have the right to control all our own affairs. Not sure what the currency will be? No problem. We’ll work out something. Want to join a military alliance that might be put out that you just kicked that alliances’ submarines out of your reformed country? No worries! We can come to some arrangement. Want to join the big free-trade zone that you’ve enjoyed commerce with for over 50 years even if they might not want you? No problem, we’ll smooth that out.

To be quite honest, your Maximum Leader believes that if Scotland votes for independence (and he still hopes they don’t) they probably will sort out most of these issues. It will not be without a whole lot of toil, tears, and sweat (probably not much bloodshed - thankfully - but this is Scotland and there may be some fist fighting and bloody noses). Scotland might go through a long(-ish) period of economic depression and might find itself in a bad way in lots of areas. But in the end, they will pull through. The more your Maximum Leader thinks on it, the more he thinks that in the very long term and independent Scotland would wind up somewhere between Ireland and Greece in the scheme of the EU. Now being Ireland or Greece isn’t much to speak of now, over the long haul it isn’t so bad.

Then one can think of the repercussions of Scottish independence and how they might pan out… English side-effects would likely be that Tory governments will be elected more often in England and England will further limiting it’s role in the EU. Scotland might need to attract highly-educated workers to stimulate the economy. They might institute some sort of “right of return” and enable your Maximum Leader to get a Scottish passport and claim Scottish citizenship. (Which might be appealing come retirement time…) If Scotland gets into the EU; then Catalonia, the Veneto and the Basque areas could all become independent states. It is mind-boggling to think about….

Of course, the mind-boggling requires pretty rosy glasses and more than a nip or two of the ole uisge beatha.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

100 Below - Lead Fruit

I remember my grandfather and I planting the tree. He looked over the farm towards the Shenandoah and said, “This land was fought over by Federals and Rebels. One day this tree will bear lead fruit.”

It was crazy, of course. But when I looked at the tree I thought “lead fruit.”

65 years later a nor’easter blew threw. Knocked down that tree. I went and looked at it before they came to cut it and take it away. There tangled in the mass of roots and dirt were bullets from the Civil War.

“I’ll be damned. Lead fruit.”

Musings on Scottish Independence

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has, for a while now, been thinking about Scottish Independence. If you didn’t know, in just over a fortnight Scots (and some expat Scots) will get to vote on a straightforward question, “Should Scotland be and independent country?”

Your Maximum Leader is deeply conflicted on this question.

For those who don’t know, your Maximum Leader’s ancestry is Anglo-Scottish. It is a little heavier on the “Scottish” side than the “Anglo” side - but it is a nearly even mix. (For what it is worth, there is some Welsh, Irish and German in that mix too. So that makes your Maximum Leader a pretty good American mongrel as it were.)

Like many Americans, some generations removed and of a certain cultural background, your Maximum Leader has an affinity, perhaps even a love, of the “mother country.” Of course, he realizes that his love of Scotland, a nation in which he’s never lived and he hasn’t visited in decades, is a love of an idealized nation. He knows more Scottish history than most Americans. He (casually) follows Scottish politics. But he is an American, not a Scot. So at some level his opinions on this whole matter are worth just about nothing…

Here are your Maximum Leader’s musings on Scottish Independence.

As an American, he wants to see people who feel they ought to be a “free and independent” become “free and independent.” This belief is tempered by knowledge of history and his own experience which tells him that though some people want to be free and independent; they aren’t ready or able to be free and independent nation-states. The Scots are certainly ready and able to be a free and independent nation-state; but should they be? They are half of the most successful union of two nation-states in the history of mankind. The Act of Union of 1707 created Great Britain and thus created the most influential nation-state in the world for nearly two hundred years. It isn’t a stretch to say that the ascendancy of British model flowed from Britain herself to the US as British power declined in the wake of WWI. Why mess that up? The United Kingdom (of Great Britain & Northern Ireland) still “punches above her weight” in the world. Scotland is an important component of the UK and the UK’s success on the world stage.

Would Scotland continue to “punch above her weight” without being part of the UK/Great Britain? Your Maximum Leader doubts it. The foundations of the Scottish independence movement all involve suppositions that don’t seem to be supported by facts. The proponents of Scottish independence believe they will get to keep the British Pound and a say in how it is managed. That isn’t going to happen. They believe they are going to get all the North Sea Oil. They very well may get a significant portion of North Sea Oil (as it is mostly in Scottish waters); but England will get some and that resource is finite. It isn’t wise to bet future financial stability on an openly traded commodity with a limited life span. They assume they will assume a fairly small portion of the national debt of the UK. The assumption is they will assume debt based on the population of Scotland relative to England/Wales/Northern Ireland. Why wouldn’t they be burdened with a portion of debt relative to the amount of the debt for which they are actually responsible - this is to say debt that was incurred for payments in Scotland? They believe that they can quickly join the European Union. Frankly, your Maximum Leader thinks that Scotland’s chances of EU membership are slim to none. (He believes that Spain & Italy, among others, will aggressively block adding Scotland to the EU. Allowing Scotland in would set a bad precedent if you are trying to keep places like Catalonia and the Veneto in modern Spain and Italy respectively.) Your Maximum Leader can go on; but further examples all fall into the same pattern. Pro-independence supporters promote a rosy suppositions with no guarantee of future outcomes.

This is what gets at your Maximum Leader. It goes against his native conservative instincts. To paraphrase Michael Oakeshott, your Maximum Leader prefers the known to the unknown, the tried to the untried, and fact to mystery. Scots have a workable political system that is known, tried, and has done well by Scots for over 200 years. The future is a place of mystery and uncertain outcomes. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure why one would voluntarily overthrow a system that is working (and working well) in favor of a system about which nothing is certain or known.

Well… Your Maximum Leader does understand the impulse to change. It is the impulse at work throughout the world all the time. It is the hope that things could be better. Scotland could be better if they had control of their own foreign policy. Scotland could be better if they had full control of their own resources. It is the promise of things that could be better that makes people want to try their hand at independence. When one is dealing with desires, aspirations, and a complex national identity; one can understand why there is appeal to change. But in most cases, the pitfalls that arise from monumental decisions fall largely into the “unforeseen consequences” area. In the case of Scotland, many of the consequences are being foreseen and are being dismissed with a blythe “we can work it out.” Sadly, it is in the “working out” of problems that true and unrepairable consequences of action are discovered.

At some wistful level your Maximum Leader would like to see Scotland reclaim her independence. But that level is one formed from a view of an idealized future based on a long-gone and idealized history. When your Maximum Leader steps back and looks at the issue of independence in a more reasoned and unemotional way, he sees too many questions that have no answer. That should give Scots pause.

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

A Lesson Learnt

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is at the Villainschloss with his two daughters. Mrs. Villain and the Wee Villain (who isn’t so wee anymore as he is nearly 5 ft tall at 10 yrs old) are in the greater Boston area right now.

You see, last month, Mrs. Villain’s uncle died. He had been battling cancer, and finally succumbed. It was our family plan to change our vacation plans to Canada and divert to Boston for the funeral. But, the funeral was postponed until this weekend to accommodate the attendance of more relatives. Sadly, due to the beginning of the school year and some anticipated financial outlays, not all of your Maximum Leader’s family was going to be able to attend the memorial service/funeral which occurred earlier today. We determined early on that Mrs. Villain had to go. We bought a plane ticket and made arrangements. The Villainettes were, in a way, glad not to be able to go. Funerals aren’t their thing.

And that is what is prompting your Maximum Leader to write. Funerals aren’t their thing. To be honest, they have not faced much death in their short lives. Your Maximum Leader had dealt with more death in his family than they have at the corresponding time in their lives. The girls have developed something akin to a fear of death. It is your Maximum Leader’s pet theory that they have gotten this from their lovely mother, your Maximum Leader’s beloved wife. She has a fear of death. She doesn’t like to discuss death. When your Maximum Leader jokes about his own mortality - something he thinks he does only to poke a little fun at while at the same time annoying his lovely wife - she gets upset. His daughters may have a degree of fear of death that your Maximum Leader doesn’t have.

This isn’t to say that your Maximum Leader doesn’t have a healthy respect for death, or seeks it. He doesn’t. But he has come to peace with the idea that death is inevitable. And when one considers the randomness of the universe, it is something that can come unexpectedly and in a way that one cannot control. Your Maximum Leader feels (rather strongly) that we in the West have done our best to isolate, or perhaps better said - insulate, ourselves from death. As recently as 75 yrs ago people routinely died at home. With their family. In multigenerational homes grandparents regularly shuffled their mortal coils in the presence of their grandchildren. It just happened. Today people die in hospitals, or nursing homes. They often die without their extended families near. We have become, culturally, Louis XIV who banished the dying from Versailles so that he did not have to deal with his own mortality.

So. The Villainettes while not “happy” to miss their great-uncle’s funeral, weren’t all that upset to have to stay home.

But surprisingly, the Wee Villain was upset to stay home.

You may recall that a few short lines ago your Maximum Leader said that the Wee Villain was in Boston with his mother at the funeral. This was an ad hoc decision - to have him go. For a the past two weeks the Wee Villain would keep mentioning that he wanted to go to the funeral. Mrs. Villain and your Maximum Leader for a time thought that this was because the Wee Villain thought he’d be getting a trip to Boston out of it and might get some good food and catch a Red Sox game. After a few times mentioning it, your Maximum Leader took his son aside and asked him why he wanted to go to the funeral so much. His answer surprised your Maximum Leader.

He said, “I want to see our cousins and be there for them.” That answer wasn’t too surprising. But when your Maximum Leader pointed out that there wouldn’t be time for fun or pizza or baseball, the Wee Villain said “Civilized people bury their dead, and I need to help.”

Your Maximum Leader immediately recognized those words… Last summer, we traveled to New England (Boston & Rhode Island) for vacation; but also to bury Mrs. Villain’s grandmother (the mother of her uncle who just passed). She passed early last year, and again for ease of getting people together, the funeral was delayed. At the burial at the family plot, after the minister gave his remarks all were invited to place a shovelful of dirt into the grave. Your Maximum Leader’s children looked at him in horror as he held the shovel up and motioned for one of them to take it and place dirt into the grave. Your Maximum Leader walked up to his children and said, “Civilized people bury their dead. It is a sign of respect and I will not have you all shirk your duties in this. You will do it today for Great Nannie. One day I hope you will do it for me.” The first of his children to take the shovel from him was his son. All three of his children did what your Maximum Leader expected/told them to do.

Apparently, the lesson was really learnt by one of his children.

After his response, your Maximum Leader made arrangements for him to go to the funeral. He was there today, doing what civilized people do and burying his dead.

Your Maximum Leader is also told that there were lobster rolls and some baseball among cousins after the memorial service.

And that is good.

God bless you Bill. Requiescat in pace.

Or as they say in the land of our ancestry: Gus am bris an là

Carry on.

Follow your Maximum Leader on Twitter: @maximumleader

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