Game of Thrones

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has had many things to do over the past few days. He’s delayed in doing is civic duty to and paying the price of civilisation until this weekend. He figured that he’d wind up, due to tax code changes owning some money. He did in fact, but the damage wasn’t as bad as he’d imagined. So there is that.

(NB: Your Maximum Leader was a young lad when President Ronald Reagan got his historic tax cuts passed in the 1982. He was still a young man when Reagan had to increase taxes in 1986. He thought of himself as a supply-sider and tax cutter. But now he finds himself an older man and he wonders if we are not on the left side of the Laffer Curve and not on the right. He had no doubt in the 1980s that we were on the right side of the Laffer Curve and cuts would increase revenues. Of course, we never cut spending, so at some level it didn’t really matter at all what side of the Laffer Curve we found ourselves. But now, in 2019, your Maximum Leader is pretty sure that insofar as tax rates are concerned, the United States is on the wrong side of the collection curve. But, just as it was true in the 1980s, it doesn’t matter because both parties are happy to spend our nation to oblivion.)

Your Maximum Leader was able to oversee (personally) the mowing of the grass in front of the Villainschloss. This may not seem like a big thing. But the weather has been warm and rainy and the grass (see: weeds) has been growing like crazy. Your Maximum Leader spend more time than expected mowing grass. It was tall and wet. It was slow going. So that wasn’t too fun.

But the real object of the weekend will be the premier of the final season of Game of Thrones on HBO tonight. Your Maximum Leader, and millions of others, have been waiting for it. Over the years that your Maximum Leader has read the books, watched the show, and waited for more books. He is now feeling much more sanguine about the story than he was a few years ago. A few years back, he would have been upset if any character other than Danerys Targaryen ended up on the Iron Throne. But now, he is okay with any number of characters ending up on that prickly chair. He is okay with it because he’s come to the point that the story will be what it will be, and nothing he does will change that. Indeed, he is pretty sure that we will now have two different stories to talk about. There will be the story from the TV show and the book story. Your Maximum Leader thinks they will be wildly divergent now. As he understands it, the show producers and story creator (David Benhoff and D.B. Wiess on the show side and George R.R. Martin as the creator) had a big talk. Martin shared the arch of the story (and its ending) with Benhoff and Wiess so that they could do the show. Benhoff and Wiess have now done their show, soon it will be in the books and over. But, as we know, the books are still far from done. Your Maximum Leader thinks that one of the reasons for the delay is that George Martin is re-writing the crap out of the story just to be difficult. He may have had a story arch in mind when he started, and when he shared it with Benhoff and Wiess; but now he’s changing it just because he can. That leaves your Maximum Leader thinking that he is just going to live with whatever is produced in both formats and enjoy it as much as he can.

So he’s got that going for him.

Now your Maximum Leader is going to sign off and have a cocktail. It has been a long weekend.

Carry on.

Musings on Thomas Hobbes 431st Birthday.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader raised a glass of whisky this past Friday (April 5th) and toasted Thomas Hobbes. Thomas Hobbes is on a very short list of political philosophers that your Maximum Leader greatly admires. Thomas Hobbes. Michael Oakeshott. Edmund Burke. Those are the big three…

Anyhoo…

Your Maximum Leader wrote recently about how to classify Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He was using old Cold War Soviet terms for his classification. So he had the Soviet Union on his mind. Bringing the Soviet Union more to the forefront of his mind was his watching (probably for the 100th time) “The Death of Stalin.” It happened to be on cable on Friday night. He caught it about 15 minutes in…

NB: Your Maximum Leader loves (LURVES!) “The Death of Stalin.” It is funny. It is intelligent. It is so well acted and well written and well directed. He rented it to watch on a flight to California last year. He saw it and knew he had to own it. He bought it upon landing and watched it three more times that weekend. He’s watched it a bunch since. In the past five years there have been two films that your Maximum Leader has found rewatchable over and over again. They are “Stalin” and “Deadpool.”

So, moving along…

Your Maximum Leader had been thinking about nomenklatura. Then he had been watching the comic antics of the Soviet Politburo jockeying for power in 1953. Then his mind wandered in a bourbon infused fog. At that point he had something of a revelation. And Hobbes has something to do with it too…

The revelation was that many liberals of today genuinely believe that a Soviet/Socialist/Communist political system is a good thing. Now you are saying to yourself, “Self, how it is that my Maximum Leader is just realising this? Is he stupid?” Well, not exactly. You see, intellectually speaking your Maximum Leader has known that many liberals think this way. But there was something of a series of subtle connections that were made in that fog that made things clearer.

You see, your Maximum Leader, in his heart shares a belief espoused by ole Thomas Hobbes. Hobbes famously wrote that in a state of nature life was a war of all against all. His famous sound bite was that life in such a condition was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Now, Hobbes’s view of humanity is more nuanced than this. You can pick up his writings and read a few hundred pages and figure this out for yourself. But here is the rub. Ultimately Hobbes, and your Maximum Leader, believed that human nature is inherently egoistic. We want what we want. We want to do what we want to do. If we think we can get away with something to our advantage, without fear of reprisal, we will do it. To use religious terminology (because in this the religious and political are closely intertwined), man’s nature is fallen. As a being with a fallen nature, we need to be constrained. Constrained, in Hobbes’ mind, by an autocratic state. (At least this the the broad theme of Leviathan.) Please keep this in your mind…

Of course, on the other side of this equation (as it were) are those who prefer the state of nature described by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Man was a perfectible, noble, creature. The nature of man was not fallen, or sinful, or bad. Mankind was corrupted by society, but society could be reformed and likewise man will be reformed as a result. Of course, your Maximum Leader is oversimplifying here, but bear with him.

So, broadly speaking, Your Maximum Leader thinks we can all agree that the best (theoretical) type of government to live under would be an autocracy ruled over by a wise, just, and benevolent autocrat. The Philosopher-King of Plato’s musings as it were. A good, wise, just, and benevolent autocrat has the power to “get things done” as well as the restraint to “keep from going too far.” Just laws, just taxes, and justice in general would flow quickly and efficiently from the Philosopher-King at the head of such a state. Things would be good…

Of course, the problem with autocracies is that you aren’t always guaranteed a good autocrat. The odds of a bad one are better than the odds of a good one. This is especially true if you believe, as your Maximum Leader and Hobbes do, in the not-so-good nature of man. But let’s say, you fall more under the Rousseauian theory of mankind. Well, even then you know that you are bound to get a bad egg from time to time. No matter how well you educate and train an autocrat, sometimes you are going to get a bad one. But if you give autocratic power to a bunch of perfectible people. People who are well-trained, well-experienced, and well-educated. Well then, that is a different story…

This is the root of the liberal’s love of technocracy. If mankind is perfectible and generally good, if you give power to right group of technocrats you will get a good outcome. If it doesn’t work out, it is because the “true formula” hasn’t really been tried. Ah… The ole “true socialism has never been tried trope!” Yes. Of course it all comes back to a fervent starting principal. If man is good it is all bound to work out! We just have had the wrong people in place…

Your Maximum Leader, in thinking all this, was musing on a column that Paul Krugman wrote some years ago (and he can’t find on the Google with ease and has given up with trying to link it) in which Krugman waxed admiration on the Chinese Communist government. In his musings, your Maximum Leader thought to himself that if you could look past the human rights abuses, the lack of personal freedoms, the rampant corruption, and the cronyism, there is a lot to like with the style of Chinese Communist rule from Deng Ziaoping through Hu Jintao. The Chinese Communist Politburo was populated by well-educated, experienced technocrats. These technocrats had well-constructed plans for moving their country ahead. They executed those plans (without any hindrance to their power). And presto-chango! China is the second greatest power in the world (and some could argue they are tied for the greatest power in the world). The Chinese Communist leaders are like half a loaf of bread in the argument about Socialism. They get so much right that they are admired, but there is that unsightly side. (All that lack of human rights, corruption, etc. etc.) It is like they are a beta version that just needs some more work.

You see, your Maximum Leader never really “saw” this aspect of how many liberals choose to look at socialism. He couldn’t get past his starting point, namely that humanity is not inherently good or truly perfectible. If you can’t get past that point, you’ll never get to where they are… Of course, your Maximum Leader likes freedom and liberty. He likes republican (truly little “r” republican) government. He likes restraint on government power. He likes it all because he doesn’t fully trust other people’s nature. We (humanity/mankind if you like) constrain our nature within society. We set up institutions and rules to constrain ourselves and others. It makes life better when we have boundaries and constrains, but also have the liberty to act as our own free-will agents.

It is possible that, at some point in the growing ever more distant past, he had this revelation before. But it seemed pretty enlightening the other night. It is possible that he’s never really tried to understand the whole “true Socialism” or “true Communism” hasn’t been tried argument. It’s never been tried, because it isn’t possible for it to be tried. If the nature of man is not predisposed towards it working, true Socialism/Communism just can’t ever work. Of course, many people don’t think as I do. So there is that.

Your Maximum Leader isn’t going to round them up and send them out for re-education or anything…

Carry on.

Twitter Musings

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader engaged in a little Twittering this weekend, to an unexpected result. You see, Democrat Presidential wanna-be Pete Buttigieg tweeted that “You don’t refer to people as animals.” This comment was in reference to our President’s old comments concerning the gang MS-13. The President called the members of the gang animals. Many on the left (or among anti-Trumpers) concurred with Buttigieg’s tweet. Frankly, your Maximum Leader agrees with the broad sentiment of his tweet. One shouldn’t call people animals. Civil discourse suffers with name-calling. It is much too common in what passes for discourse nowadays.

Then again, some people do deserve to be called animals. If anything, some people are worse than animals and have, through their own actions, forfeited the “right” to not be name-called. Some of the people that deserve to be called animals are the members of the MS-13 gang that (allegedly) perpetrated a terrible murder. A terrible murder that your Maximum Leader has the most tangential connection to - thanks to a twist of geography.

According to news reports, Jacson Chicas, was a former member of the MS-13 gang. He tried to leave the gang. Members of the gang hunted him down. Then they murdered him. They stabbed him nearly 100 times. Then they took his body from Maryland (the site of the crime) to my home county and they dumped the body along the Rappahannock River, doused it with gas and lit it aflame. Here is a short piece from NBC 4 in Washington. The body was so badly desecrated that police had to release a photo of Chicas’ arm, which had a distinctive tattoo, in order to help identify the body. (The rumor around town is that Chicas’ face was badly mutilated and couldn’t be identified. But it is, one hopes, only a rumor.)

Your Maximum Leader’s connection to this was that he had to get up early the morning that the body was discovered to run an errand. After he woke, he got a text from the Stafford County Sheriff’s Department. (He is on the County text alert system. It tells him all about road closures, bad weather, school closings, police chases, water main breaks… You know, the good stuff.) The text said that River Road was closed due to a police investigation. Your Maximum Leader suspected the investigation was related to a car accident. So, rather than going down River Road, he drove along a different route. A route that put him on the other side of the Rappahannock River from the crime scene. As he drove by he saw cars from the Sheriff’s Department. A few State Trooper cruisers. He also saw what he suspects was a big crime scene investigation van. He also saw a large white sheet over what he suspected was the victim’s body.

That is it. That is the extent of his connection… Geography and a glance at a crime scene…

Anyhoo…

Back to Twitter… Someone responded to Buttigieg’s tweet by citing a news article about this MS-13 murder and said that the people who committed this crime were, indeed, animals. Your Maximum Leader responded to that by tweeting that the body was dumped near his home and that he saw the crime scene. He added that the crime was barbaric.

Well… That Tweet has been retweeted, liked, forwarded, and responded to in ways your Maximum Leader is not used to seeing. You see, he doesn’t have many followers. He isn’t really working hard to gain lots more. But that one tweet seems to have made more than 28,000 impressions. He doesn’t know how twitter calculates these things, but he is certain that this tweet gets a lot more eyeballs looking at it than most of what he tweets. It is the reactions that intrigue him. The way responses line up completely on ideological lines. Party lines really. The discussions has devolved to the absolutes. You either think people can be called animals or you don’t. There is no room for nuance. Where are the sensible people who realise that one can’t call anyone an animal, but some people certainly deserve it.

Certainly 5 people who stab a 16 year old about 100 times, then set his body aflame can be called animals? A person who disagrees with a political stance I espouse ought not to be called an animal (or a Nazi for that matter).

It seems your Maximum Leader is out of touch with the times in which he lives.

Carry on.

Classifications

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was musing the other day about Democratic Congressman and Wunderkinder Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He wasn’t just musing about her lovely complexion, ample bosom, but over-large teeth either. He was thinking about her as a political phenomena of our day. He wondered how, other than her general good looks - which don’t hurt when gaining celebrity, she became such a spokesman for the Democratic Party. Here a 29 years old woman, elected by about 100,000 voters in liberal Brooklyn, New York, seems to have become one of the standard bearers for her party. All that and she is a spokesman for what your Maximum Leader thinks of as the far left-wing element of her party.

Then he started to think back to his youth during the bad ole days of the Cold War. Then something came to him. Was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez an apparatchik or a nomenklatura? He posted this, mostly rhetorical, question on the ole Tweety-box. (Your Maximum Leader’s handle by the by is @maximumleader.) One of your Maximum Leader’s tweeps (@arethusaf) suggested that she wasn’t detail oriented enough to be an apparatchik, and that she was certainly now, by virtue of her position, a nomenklatura.

NB: Any of you out there who might stumble across this post would likely know what apparatchiks and nomenklatura are. But in case you don’t here are the wiki definitions. Apparatchik. Nomenklatura. They will suit our purposes here tonight.

So back to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Apparatchik or nomenklatura. Your Maximum Leader agrees with Arethusa that by virtue of her position in Congress she is certainly a member of the Democratic nomenklatura. But she evinces, in your Maximum Leader’s eyes, many of the qualities of an apparatchik. He says this because she is a good reciter of the “party line.” She knows all the lines, everything she should say about all the hot-button issues for the Democratic constituency. You know them: the environment, health care, the environment some more, equal justice, equal pay, the environment even more, and a highly idealised and mostly imagined democratic-socialism of the Nordic type. She knows what to say on these subjects, how to say it, and more importantly how to communicate in Tweet-length soundbites.

NB: Your Maximum Leader wishes we would get legit soundbites. Remember them? People of a certain age remember lamenting the popularisation of the soundbite. Oh how, as a younger man, your Maximum Leader mused “What happened to the American attention span? When did we stop being able to listen to a person for more than 3 minutes? When did we lose the ability to concentrate for over 15 minutes at a time? Why must we be subjected to a 2-3 minute soundbite that doesn’t really give us any information or nuance?” The soundbite was the king of newsworthy statements in the late 80’s and 90’s. Now we don’t even get the soundbite. It is all tweet-length nowadays. If you are lucky you get the Twitter version of the soundbite - the thread… Pretty soon we’ll only understand emojis.

Actually, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ability to tweet is likely as responsible for her meteoric rise in her party as much as her beating Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary in her district (NY - 14). She is a mirror image of our President when it comes to tweeting. To make an old Dungeons & Dragons analogy, Ocasio-Cortez is a Paladin on the Twitter and Donald Trump is the Anti-Paladin on the Twitter. She is on-point and always saying exactly what you think she will (if you are into predicting these things). He is wild and untamed and all over the place. They both are happy to bend the truth while tweeting, but Ocasio-Cortez’s “facts” are generally more popular than Trumps and she is largely immune (in the mainstream) from actual fact-checking. Unlike the President who is oft (and rightfully) fact-checked and exposed as a liar (which he is).

Anyhooo… Back to the classification…

Your Maximum Leader thinks that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a failed apparatchik that has stumbled into the nomenklatura by a happy confluence of events (not the least of which was the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States).

NB: Your Maximum Leader can’t imagine that he’s going to have to spend the rest of his life looking at Trump’s ugly mug on a placemat depicting all the Presidents of the United States. Your Maximum Leader might have to swear off Presidential placemats in favor of Civil War generals, the States, or world flags placemats.

Ocasio-Cortez isn’t a bureaucratic functionary. She doesn’t have the talent for details (at least not that your Maximum Leader can observe). But she knows the party line, and that will get her far. It already has gotten her far. Your Maximum Leader wagers that she will serve in Congress long enough to receive a full pension. Ocasio-Cortez will likely be with us (at least those of us who follow politics to some degree) for some time. Your Maximum Leader hopes she’ll at least be entertaining for some of that time. He does not wish, however, that she will be particularly successful and implementing that which she so easily professes on the Twitter.

Carry on.

Aaaaand We’re Back

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader seems to be back up and working. The water damage in the Villainschloss seems to have been stopped and somewhat remediated. (He has some drywall patches yet to do.) His computer seems to be safe and functional. He was worried that the keyboard, which was quite soaked with water, wasn’t going to function. It seems to be fine as he is typing now.

He has some thoughts he might write about in more detail tomorrow. Right now he has a little more clean up to accomplish and then a wedding to go to.

Carry on.

Disaster

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sat down to blog the other night. While he was sitting at his computer, he thought he heard a dripping noise. He couldn’t place where it was, but it seemed irregular and faint. He asked his son to listen for it, but he couldn’t hear it. So you Maximum Leader chalked it up to getting old and hearing things.

Bad move.

The next day, Villainette #2 (home for Spring Break from VA Tech), called around lunch time to announce that your Maximum Leader’s office was soaked. The carpet was soaked. His desk was soaked. And there was water dripping from a light fixture and a vent.

Well, the long and short of this is that there is apparently a leak in the shower above your Maximum Leader’s office. There are holes in the ceiling to inspect to find from whence the water is coming. So far no luck. But the plumbers will be there in a little while. It is looking expensive.

The downside is that your Maximum Leader’s attempt to revive this blog and write is not working out too much. His computer was not damaged, but he may need a new keyboard…

Ugh.

Carry on.

Egg Rolls

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

TWP - Cold Water

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

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

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

Anyhoo…

There is the cold water prompt.

Carry on.

TWP - 3 Sentences

Greetings, loyal minions.

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

Here you go:

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

And a bonus sentence:

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

Carry on.

TWP - The Wall

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

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

The writing prompt was thus:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Armoured Trains

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is quite fond of the choo-choos. Oh yes indeed. He would make most of his travel rail travel if time, expense, and availability of stops weren’t a factor. He would gladly hop on a train and go to just about anywhere he had to go.

Sadly, he does not. He could take a commuter train to DC more often. (But for where and when he goes driving is best.) He does prefer and take the train to Philly, and NYC when he has occasion to go there. He’s planning a trip to Roanoke on the train (to visit Villainette #2). But making the time to get the train that goes to Roanoke is a bit of a chore.

If your Maximum Leader were truly a murderous dictator (or merely a tyrant, or even a person of conspicuous wealth) he would gladly have a private train on which he would travel. Of course, your Maximum Leader’s train would be much nicer looking that Kim Jong-un’s. Kim’s train is nothing special to look at. Your Maximum Leader would prefer more streamlined, and not green. Something like Raymond Loewy would have designed. Like one of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s S-1 or T-1 locomotives (seen here). But obviously (and sadly) not steam powered. One thinks the locomotives would have to be diesel (or some futuristic diesel and electric hybrid - running on electric on the electrified tracks of the Northeast Corridor, but having diesel for the non-electrified track). And it goes without saying that while your Maximum Leader’s train would be stocked full of fine foods, adult beverages, and comely conductors like Kim’s train, it would travel faster than 37 mph.

Of course, your Maximum Leader mentioned the very famous PRR S-1 and T-1 locomotives as a basis for the design of his train. Your Maximum Leader’s favourite locomotive in the whole wide world is the Norfolk & Western J-Class. He would probably use the J-Class as a model for the locomotive on his (completely hypothetical) armoured train.

NB: Your Maximum Leader must have some British English box checked on spell check because armor appears wrong but armour appears to be correct.

Carry on.

Carbon Emissions Question

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

Seriously, that is the question.

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

“Presidents Day” +1

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Smollett

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carry on.

Unexpected Joy

Greetings, loyal minions. This weekend has been one of unexpected joy. Both Villainettes are college students now. As such, they are not home often. This weekend, Mrs. Villain had planned to get Villainette #1 (a senior at VCU) and bring her home to the Villainschoss on Friday night to spend the weekend with us and do some general “family stuff.” Well, Mrs. Villain had a bad headache on Friday night and your Maximum Leader himself made the trek (45 mins each way) to get Villainette #1 (who has no vehicle of her own) and brought her back home.

Apparently, while your Maximum Leader was on the road to Richmond, Villainette #2 (a sophomore at Virginia Tech) was on the phone with Mrs. Villain. The upshot of that phone call was that Villainette #2 decided to get in her vehicle and trek up home herself. That is a 3.5 hour drive. She started at 8pm. It caused her mom and dad a little anxiety (driving at night on I-81 is never fun). But she got home safe and sound. (I don’t know why it causes anxiety for us since she just drove all the way from Fredericksburg, VA to Orlando, FL and back over Christmas.)

Anyway… The full family was here (and frankly still is for a little while longer) for the weekend. That is an unexpected joy.

Carry on.

    About Naked Villainy

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