Comments

Greetings, loyal minions. This blog is old and in need of updates. Both your Maximum Leader writing updates, and the software that runs it. He’s been getting piles of spam comments. He’s sure some of the code somewhere has been manipulated. Sadly, this is beyond his ability to fix. He is looking into finding someone who can do an update and help him out. Until then, he’s had to disable comments. If you are interested in reaching out to him about something you see (or don’t see) here, you most likely have my email. Drop me a line.

Carry on.

100 Below - In The Deep Woods

It was his favorite trail. It wound into deep empty woods. They walked silently for an hour. He spoke. “I’m glad you suggested this. It is so peaceful.”

“I know you love it,” she said.

“I am so happy to be here with you.”

“Let’s go look at the marsh flowers,” she suggested. He smiled and walked a way off the trail. She followed. He sat down on a large rock at the side of marsh. She raised the gun and shot him in the head. She stared at the gun. She sighed. Was it time to end herself too?

There May Be A Bulge In My Stillsuit

Greetings, loyal minions.

The title of this post says it all.

Looks good.

Carry on.

Lovecraft Country

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is a fan of the works of H.P. Lovecraft. He doesn’t believe he’s made any secret of this ever. He discovered Lovecraft’s works when he was young, and loved them. He was, and still is, a Lovecraft geek.

That being said, Lovecraft was a terrible racist. Your Maximum Leader doesn’t mean this in the way that the term is thrown about with all the ease of calling someone with whom you disagree “as bad as Hitler.” He means that Howard Phillips Lovecraft really was a racist. He hated Jews, Blacks, Asians, Italians, and probably the Irish and Catholics too. (Not sure about the Irish and the Catholics… You might still be able to be prejudiced against those two. (He kids. Really, kidding… Or is he?)) His letters are full of racist material. Certainly there are outwardly racist bits in his writings, as well as some racist material through interpretation. Your Maximum Leader didn’t catch the offensive themes, or at least didn’t focus on them, when he was young. He has noticed them since he’s gotten older. Indeed, he never thought to interpret “A Shadow Over Innsmouth” as a metaphor for the intermixing of races until someone suggested that interpretation to him (probably around 2005). After re-reading “Shadow” after this was suggested to him, your Maximum Leader saw it clear as day. He supposes that he’d never thought of the story as anything more than a horror story about half-fish people…

Anyhoo…

HBO is putting out a new series in a few days (a week maybe - the DVR is already set) called “Lovecraft Country.” Your Maximum Leader admits that he is all giddy with excitement for watching it. The story is, simply put, one of a Black Korean War veteran who travels during the time of Jim Crow** to learn about his family along the way encountering the racism of America of the time as well as supernatural horrors.

Why is all this coming up right now? That is to ask, why is your Maximum Leader bothering to blog about this? Well, some intertoob algorithms have somehow connected your Maximum Leader’s fondness for Lovecraft and this show and is pushing news articles to him. Here is one from the LA Times by Meredith Blake that he read: “H.P. Lovecraft was a virulent racist. How “Lovecraft Country” confronts his legacy.” The piece, towards the end, does start to deal with writers who are conflicted by their dislike of Lovecraft’s personal beliefs (some of which translate to the page) and their love of the stories themselves and the mythology they create. There is one paragraph that struck your Maximum Leader as noteworthy. In it Hugo Award winning writer N.K. Jemisin is quoted. Here is the part:

But Jemisin doesn’t think Lovecraft — or his canon — should be canceled. Instead, she has argued that readers should acknowledge the potential harm of his writing, then engage with it “when they are strong enough” to do so. “You have to recognize that these are people and that the things that make them sometimes horrible people are sometimes the things that make them good writers or good artists, and that’s what you want to engage with,” she told the New Yorker.

Your Maximum Leader doesn’t handle the “cancel” culture well. He thinks it is intellectually and socially stifling. It causes good people to stay quiet when their ideas might challenge the mob. It also emboldens the mob as it does its best to tear down that which makes civilization civilized. So he was heartened to read that a noted award winning author was against cancelling Lovecraft. He supposes it is good advice to suggest that someone wait until they are strong enough to read the works of Lovecraft before they do. Are there really people that sensitive that they can’t manage to read a book or story written by a man dead nearly 100 years? There must be or else people wouldn’t talk about it so much. Your Maximum Leader will suggest that if one doesn’t have the fortitude to read works that might offend or challenge their beliefs or world-view, then please leave them alone. And leave them alone enough for the rest of us to decide how to approach them.

In this vein… Your Maximum Leader wonders if William Faulkner is on the list to be cancelled before too long…

Your Maximum Leader may choose to buy the book upon which the TV show is based and see if he likes it. Not too long ago he bought a collection of Lovecraft inspired stories from various authors and enjoyed it very much. Some of the stories he enjoyed even more than Lovecraft’s on account of a more modern style of writing that was more conducive to his tastes.

Carry on.

**UPDATE: As of the end of episode 1, the story protagonists do not travel to the Jim Crow South, as your Maximum Leader wrote originally. They are traveling from Chicago to Massachusetts during the 1950’s and are subject to not only Jim Crow laws, but the racists who support them. As many reviewers have noted, and it is worth repeating here, there are two sets of villains in the story the first are racist whites the second are the supernatural monsters.

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.

100 Below: From Glowplugs With Love**

Maria Von Monitor took a selfie. Her luminescent face shone against the snow-capped Alpine peaks behind her.Then she spied her new boyfriend running towards her..

“DRIVE! DAMN IT!,” he shouted at her.

Maria fumbled for her keys. She opened the door and got in. She put the key in the ignition and turned it a single click.

James Bond jumped into the passenger seat. “Why aren’t we going?,” he spat at her.

“Glowplugs need to warm up! It’s a diesel!” She cried through tears of panic.

Then the hail of gunfire rained down on them from Blofeld’s henchmen.

** - Your Maximum Leader had to update the title and one word of this short story due his own screw up. For some reason, over the course of his whole life, your Maximum Leader has called glowplugs (a part found in a diesel engine) “glowtubes.” He doesn’t know why he does this. But he does. He’s been school by mechanics including his own father-in-law as to the proper term. In the case of this post, he was not schooled by his father-in-law, or a mechanic, but his best buddy Kevin. Thanks for the edit. It was needed.

He feels shame…

Anima Veneziana

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that an organization, Anima Veneziana is crowdfunding a film about Venice, by Venetians. Any reader of this space knows of your Maximum Leader’s unrequited love of Venice. If he could only go one place in the world before he dies, Venice would be that place.

Your Maximum Leader learned of this project via a piece in Forbes, Venice Is More Than Flooding and Overtourism. The piece opens thusly:

Blighted, decadent, doomed, Venice is often spoken of only in terms of its turbulent relationship with the sea and its museumification by overtourism. A new film, made by Venetians about Venetians, is hoping to change Venice’s international image by bringing to the fore the city’s residents and their lives.

“It was a project born from the dark days under lockdown,” says Monica Cesarato, a local food blogger who developed the idea for the Anima Veneziana film. The short film will follow a day in the life of Venice, “where all categories of its citizens will appear,” she says.

“It stems from the desire to change the narrative of the city, plagued by the stories of its umpteenth death after high water and the closure during COVID-19,” explains Cesarato. One of the worst periods of flooding in Venice’s history hit the city in November, prompting a stream of dramatic images in the international media.

Your Maximum Leader loves that. Blighted, decadent, and doomed. Perhaps those words do best to summarize why your Maximum Leader loves the idea of Venice so much. If he can spare a few bucks (Euros) he might help fund this film.

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.

WRONG!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader asks that you read the title of this post in your best John McLaughlin voice. So, when it comes to things political you Maximum Leader has been very wrong about some things. He was wrong about Trump winning the 2016 Presidential Election. He is also very wrong about Joe Biden. He doesn’t recall if he blogged it, tweeted it, or wrote as a comment on Facebook that there was no way in hell that Joe Biden was going to win the nomination of the Democratic party for the presidency in 2020. Please know that your Maximum Leader is sitting down, wallowing in his wrongness. It feels like… Quarantine…

So, he was wrong about Joe Biden. Somehow, saner voices in the Democratic party prevailed and they didn’t coalesce behind Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, or one of the many other more “progressive” candidates. Frankly, your Maximum Leader didn’t see it happening. He thought that the Democrats were going to do what Republicans did in 2016. Your Maximum Leader likens 2016 to Republicans saying “Ah fuck it. Nominate Trump. Take our lumps. And see what happens in 2020.” Of course, there were many voices in the Republican party who’s view on nominating Trump was more like: McCain and Romney were too moderate; just nominate the furthest “right” person we can find and see what happens. Of course, now many of those voices are happy to crow that if the party had nominated someone more like Trump in 2008, Obama would have never become president.

Your Maximum Leader disagrees with the sentiment he just related to you, but he’s also spent this post saying he’s been wrong. (So take anything written here with a shaker of salt.) He figured that there would be a substantial faction of the Democratic party that would pretty much look at Trump in 2016 and say, “two can play at that game” and go ahead and nominate Bernie Sanders or someone just as/more liberal/progressive/socialist. So the fact that they didn’t is a little shocking to your Maximum Leader. Who’da thunk that the Democrats were more sane than Republicans? That is a turn around.

So it looks like it will be Trump/Pence and Biden/Someone on the ballot in November. If your Maximum Leader had to guess prior to the pandemic and subsequent lock-downs/quarantines he would have said that Trump would win reelection. Your Maximum Leader isn’t sure now. He would have said that a Trump reelection would be a “damned close-run thing” in favorable circumstances. Now, given the state of the country and how it may be in November, your Maximum Leader simply doesn’t know. What your Maximum Leader does know is that he doesn’t have an idea who he will vote for…

Yup… You read that right, your Maximum Leader isn’t sure for whom he will vote in November. To clarify, he isn’t going to vote for Trump. He didn’t in 2016, and isn’t going to in 2020. That man has a corrosive effect on politics and our nation. Successes he may have had (which are few in your Maximum Leader’s view) have not earned your Maximum Leader’s vote. That leaves the Biden/Someone ticket. Your Maximum Leader didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 either. (He voted for Gary Johnson - Libertarian.) Will he vote for Joe Biden in November? To be honest, your Maximum Leader has always viewed Joe Biden as a mediocre political hack who, like most US Senators, fancied that he could be a better President of the United States than whoever the occupant of the office happened to be. Your Maximum Leader is pretty sure that there were more than one sleepless night at the Vice President’s mansion when ole Joe gazed over the manicured lawns and said to himself, “I would be better at _________ than Barack Obama.” So Joe thinks he’s up to the job (and has since 1988 at least). Your Maximum Leader doesn’t think Joe is up for the job. He seems old, tired, and just out of it. Again, if your Maximum Leader is being honest, he doesn’t see Joe Biden physically holding up for 4 years as President. Your Maximum Leader isn’t saying that at some point in the possible 1st term of a Biden presidency we would be talking about the 25th Amendment, but he’s been thinking about it. That is why Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential choice is an interesting one.

Former Vice President Biden has, stupidly in your Maximum Leader’s opinion, declared that his VP choice will be a woman. Why declare that it is going to be a woman? It is pandering, nothing but pandering. But strategically, why box yourself into that move so early? It speaks to a lack of vision in your Maximum Leader’s opinion. It says “I’m pandering for your vote now, and will take options off the table way before I have to in an effort to make you people who don’t like me, like me.” Your Maximum Leader has no problem with a woman as VP on the ticket, or a woman as VP, or a woman POTUS. (He thought Selina Meyer was great at both roles!) It all comes down to which woman. If Biden were to pick Hillary Clinton (which no one thinks will happen - but there is a faction that seems to still want it), your Maximum Leader would see about voting Libertarian again. Frankly, Stacey Abrams of Georgia is another choice that seems like pandering, but worse than just pandering it is a choice that is pandering AND irresponsible. When a 78 year old man picks a woman who has no experience beyond being a State Senator for the job that is literally one heartbeat away from the Presidency for no other reason than she checks some boxes that some people want to see checked it is irresponsible. It really undercuts Biden’s major draw. What is Biden’s major draw by the way? He has 2 in fact. The first is he’s not Donald Trump. That will be enough for many people. The second is that he can say “I’m competent and know what the hell I’m doing.” For chrissakes, he’s been a US Senator for a lifetime and was for eight years Vice President of the United States. If Biden were to choose Abrams it says that it is more important to signal that he is comfortable with a black woman who’s claim to fame is that she lost an election for governor, than it is to signal that he wants a serious person/partner who could be President. Again, your Maximum Leader isn’t wishing for a 25th Amendment situation, but he can envision one.

So who then? Who does your Maximum Leader think Biden could choose and signal that he is serious about thinking about someone who could be President in the case of a tragedy, and who would be set up for a possible Presidential run in 2024 or beyond? Since Biden said he has to choose a woman, then you have to seriously look at Senators Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Amy Klobuchar. Your Maximum Leader would actually think that any of those three would be fine choices. Not that he agrees with any of them particularly on politics. But the choice is not reckless. Warren would possibly help him among liberals/progressives. Harris might (might - really only might) help him among minorities. Klobuchar may help him in the Midwest. Of those your Maximum Leader thinks that Klobuchar probably meshes the best with Biden politically and philosophically. Of course, Klobuchar doesn’t seem to be popular with minorities. Of those three, your Maximum Leader probably agrees with Klobuchar most on policy. That isn’t to say we are ideological soul-mates, we aren’t. But there is likely more common ground between Klobuchar and your Maximum Leader than Warren/Harris and your Maximum Leader. That being said, either Warren or Harris would be satisfactory choices. Between those two, your Maximum Leader would go with Harris. But what the hell does your Maximum Leader know? Nothing. Nothing as evinced by all of his blogging thus far.

There are other women being spoken about: Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice and many others. They all have something they can bring to the ticket. Your Maximum Leader thinks Biden is going to probably choose Harris or Klobuchar. Your Maximum Leader thinks that Biden knows them both, they are both Senators and he feels comfortable knowing that about them. Additionally, they are both qualified for the job having had experience in Washington.

Where does that leave your Maximum Leader in terms of voting in November? Hell if he knows.

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.

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