November 30, 2003

The Great Man.

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader woke up this morning and began toasting the greatest man of the 20th Century, and on of the greatest men ever to have lived. Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born this day, at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, in 1874. We should all take a moment to remember his life and career. And thank God for him in the darkest hour in 1940.

Carry on.

November 28, 2003

Regrettable food.

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was reviewing the Lileks website and stumbled onto the Regrettable Food area in the Institute for Official Cheer. Once again, your Maximum Leader laughed and laughed.

Carry on.

Holiday funnies.

Greetings again loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader likes a good laugh first thing in the morning. It makes the dull life of world dominiating go much easier. Your Maximum Leader just read Primal Purge and laughed and laughed. And read the Poet Laureate's most recent ode... And Lileks is all wrong about Heidi Klum not playing Mrs. Claus in a thong. (A Maximum Leader thong? Ah to dream...) She should. Oh she should....

Carry on.

Thanksgiving plus one.

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is glad to be able to type. He feared that the copious amounts of gravy he consumed yesterday would congeal in his arteries and cause his fingers not to bend. But, things didn't turn out that way.

While your Maximum Leader was sitting back after his repast (with the Happy Thanksgiving messages being broadcast over the Villainschloss public address system), he turned on the news. And saw that President Bush had traveled to Baghdad to visit with the troops. What a great thing to do. Your Maximum Leader was quite impressed. (But he reads that Allah is not too impressed at a lost opportunity.)

Your Maximum Leader is saddened that other plans for world dominiation keep him away from the Minister of Agriculture's farm today. He would like to partake of the ritual slaughtering of the fatted (organically fattened that is) steers.

Your Maximum Leader hops you all had a great day of feasting. Now get back to your minionly ways. Or better yet. Go shopping and boost the economy some. And before signing off, since when have the major news outlets publically broadcast this day as "Black Friday." And that moniker is always followed very quickly by "the day that retailers go from the red to the black." Your Maximum Leader will put on his "the regular media bias cap" for a moment. Your Maximum Leader has always watched the news, and this is the first day after Thanksgiving that he has ever heard the appelation "Black Friday" used to describe this day. Normally the tag "Black + [day of the week]" means the stock market crashed and thousands of brokers defenestrated themselves. Is this another plot to make Americans feel badly about the economy despite news to the contrary? Your Maximum Leader thinks so.

Carry on.

November 26, 2003

The ML and MOA are Moral Carnivores

The Maximum Leader has provided a link to Keith Burgess-Jackson’s discussion of the morality of eating turkeys. I suspect he was trying once again to prompt a post on organic farming from his Minister of Agriculture.

I haven’t posted on agriculture before because I will have a terrible time achieving closure on any discussion of farming. I know this will shock those of you who have read my invariably short, remarkably reticent posts on gay marriage and guns, but the Minister of Agriculture is not always the soul of brevity. When talking about the soil, the MOA becomes downright voluble.

<< And yes Air Marshal, the Minister of Agriculture has once again succumbed to referring to himself in the third person. Oops! I did it again! Since this is the Maximum Leader’s site, I have adopted to the prevailing style. >>

However, since the end of my lunch period artificially constrains me today, I will address KBJ’s theory that eating turkey makes one responsible for all the suffering that animal has suffered throughout its life.

I concur.

However, most consumers do not make their choice about meat products based on the treatment of their dinner. They look for cheap meat.

Due to the economies of scale and a remarkably asinine United States agricultural policy, most animals in America are raised inhumanely.

This is bad for the animals.

More importantly, it is bad for farmers and bad for the environment.

I’ll leave that assertion alone for now; when time permits Uncle Mark will gather all of his children around and tell them the story of how dairy farming changed from families who cared for 20 milk cows to corporations that hire workers from Mexico to industrially manage 1400 genetically modified milk factories on the hoof. Milk is cheap, but family farms are gone, the animals suffer, and the erosion and pollution that inevitably result from large-scale grain monoculture rape the environment. This paradigm shift has been so productive that the government pays farmers (read: corporations) to produce less milk and buys milk to destroy. Excellent work, you %^&*(@ Washington bureaucrats. But going into the transformation of the milk “industry” is a multi-page post. This is about eating meat.

For those of you who want to know how your beef is raised, Michael Pollan wrote an excellent article in the magazine section of the New York Post:

This is very well done. It doesn’t buy into the whole PETA hysteria and judgmentalism. It just lays out how the industry works. It will take a while to read, but I highly suggest following that link.

I raise beef a little differently.

I raise Holstein calves that would otherwise go for veal (don’t even get the animal rights people started here). They don’t have a lot of value for beef producers because they grow more slowly and take more grain than a beef breed would – but that is okay since my animals eat a natural grass-based diet. The extra cost of grain they would have in a traditional operation is irrelevant to me. They are also relatively cheaper than beef-breed feeders largely due to the tremendous marketing success of the Angus breed association (100% Angus beef!).

The Holstein beef is indistinguishable from the Angus beef, no matter what Madiosn Avenue tells you. State Ag Extensions have conducted several consumer tests that have shown that consumers cannot distinguish between Holstein and Angus steaks. Meat quality is much more directly influenced by the condition in which the animal is reared than the particular cattle breed.

I rear my claves entirely on grass. They lead a natural life and are well-treated. I take the time to offer them treats (apples and pears from the orchard) and to scratch their chins. This does make it a bit harder on me when it comes time to send them to the butcher, but it does make them happier and certainly easier to handle. For example, when a tree came down and punched a hole in my perimeter fence, my lads escaped. For many farmers this would lead to a long afternoon of excitement and frustration. I just stood at the gap and called them. They came right back for their chin scratches.

The Maximum Leader might have had one other reason to put up a link to a philosopher attacking the cruelty generally applied to meat animals: He will be able to eat steaks and hamburgers with a clean conscience this December. He is one of my customers. One side of one of my boys will fill the Maximum Leader’s freezer.

Bon apetit, supreme commander!

Respectful Contempt.

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader continues to be more impressed with Dr. Keith Burgess-Jackson. His post today excerpting a passage about Respectful Contempt is very good. (And any discussion that centers on the philosophy of Robert Nozick can't be all bad.) And quite topical. Ah, what a good find to stumble onto his blog one day...

Carry on.


Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader deep inside that dark and sinister place he calls his heart he is a bit of a monarchist. While he goes on and on about democracy and our American Republic (and honestly is a real patriot), there is some little corner within him that loves monarchy. And in addition to loving monarchy (in the abstract at least), he is an Anglophile. That knowledge should allow you to recognize why your Maximum Leader weeps over this.

UPDATE: I have had to edit this post about 4 times for grammar errors... I must need some sleep.

Carry on.

Rule of law vs. rule of judges...

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been reading over the posts on this site and will try to wrap a whole bunch of issues into one big post. This process began when your Maximum Leader read over the Foreign Minister's last post. One can certainly understand how reading the court sources being bandied about by the Minister of Agriculture and your Maximum Leader can do little to inspire confidence. Then your Maximum Leader had a little serendipitous moment. An underlying, but common, theme in many of the recent posts on this space (and over on the Poet Laureate's site) have to do with the problem your Maximum Leader will call the problem of the rule of law versus the rule of judges.

The Minister of Agriculture has mentioned a few times in the ongoing discussion on guns that he respects the rule of law. Indeed. Your Maximum Leader (until he rides the wave of power and establishes the MWO) also respects the rule of law. Respecting the rule of law is a good Anglo-American tradition. But we have in the United States a problem. It is not directly about the rule of law, but the rule of judges.

Some of you may know that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has a sign in his office which reads: “Please do not emanate into the penumbra.” This tongue-in-cheek sign is meant to show Justice Thomas’ commitment to interpreting the Constitution according to the founders’ intent. (Justice Thomas, and others, are dismayed by the fact that recent court decision have found there are new individual rights that “emanate from the penumbra” of enumerated rights in the Constitution.) This is the jumping off point of my discussion. At what point have we moved from the rule of law to the rule of judges.

Allow me to begin by saying that I have no problem with judges clarifying points of law, or taking a decision between two differing but equally plausible interpretations of a law. What I find I have more and more difficulty with are courts deciding questions that historically have been left to legislatures. Our on-going gay marriage discussion is one such question that is looking like the courts (not the legislatures) will decide.

Not too long ago the Poet Laureate asked for my opinions on the legislative vs. judicial implications of the gay marriage decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Court. Well here it is. I believe that gay marriage is so very contentious not only because of the uncomfortable confluence of religious and political spheres but because the major decisions are all being made by courts.

Now a pox should fall on all “houses” in this political debate. Liberals, Conservatives, Democrats, Republicans all are using the courts to win political battles. But these battles shouldn’t be fought in the courts. They should be fought in the state and federal legislatures. Issues involving such momentous (or potentially momentous) societal changes should not be determined in a court, but in a democratically elected deliberative body. I firmly believe that the gay marriage debate needs to be happening in state legislatures or in the Congress. (And gay marriage is only one debate that should be solved outside of courts, it just happens to be the topical one now.)

Now before the cat-calls of “well you are only saying that because Republicans who favour your position control the Congress,” are levied let me say that I don’t really care who controls the Congress. My opinion would stay much the same. We have allowed our legislatures to become lazy. Seats in Congress aren’t always contested. Incumbents avoid decision taking because it gives them a record that someone could use against them. And ultimately, we as voters (you are a voter aren’t you?) bear the responsibility. We don’t demand that the hard questions be solved in the logical place. This permissiveness allows the courts to step right in and answer the questions. But this is not healthy for a democratic society because so few people are actually involved in the decision-making process. When a court decision is handed down, the question is answered and there is not much anyone can do about it, except wait to see how it turns out on appeal.

This cycle of waiting for the courts to rule on the questions of the day doesn’t promote closure (so to speak) on the questions of the day. It leaves them open-ended. They are open ended because “the people” didn’t ever really decide anything. And frankly, “the people” weren’t even consulted in taking a decision. Furthermore waiting for courts to decide weighty questions causes the appointment of judges to the bench to become a wretched horror of a process that no decent person (of any political stripe) should have to endure. Why? Because judges take the flak for the political hacks in settling the questions of the day.

Let us take the question of gay marriage. Court after court, it appears, will be soon deciding if gay people can get their marriage’s recognized by the civil authorities. The very fact that courts are taking this decision, I believe, polarizes the population. Currently, a majority of people oppose extending the defined institution of marriage to include same sex couples. Regardless of which polls you read, the majority still exists. (It only seems to vary in size.) If that majority feels that their voice wasn’t heard by the courts, they will become resentful of the courts’ decision. And that could very likely lead to a public backlash against gays. Currently a majority of Americans (myself included – in case you were guessing) agree with recent decisions of various courts (including the US Supreme Court) holding that homosexual behaviour is not illegal. This is a good decision, but frankly one that should have been avoided by legislatures repealing the problematic laws. In the case of gay marriage the courts’ decisions are polarizing the public and could cause the general feeling of good-will towards gays to evaporate.

If, however, there were to be a serious debate in Congress (or in state legislatures) about the status of gay marriage and an up or down vote were to be taken; there would be much less or even no backlash. Why? Because Americans believe in fair play, and when we lose a fair fight we admit it. And once you gain a right in our system, it is pretty damned hard to lose it. (But that sometimes happens when people are not vigilant.)

But, alas, our elected politicians do not do us a great service by being more concerned about re-election than really making laws… This brings me to two other points I wanted to get in (and now is about as good as any).

Re: Slippery-slope arguments. We have all read a lot about slippery slope arguments recently. I have even made some. But the key to understanding the slippery-slope is subtlety. The proponents of gay marriage (for instance) are not really trying to eliminate all barriers to marriage (as some opponents of gay marriage claim). The vast majority of them are really only looking to right what they perceive to be a wrong. The slippery-slope is not an actual conspiracy to do more than someone (or group) claims. The slippery-slope is a result of unintended, or denied, consequences.

As pertains to the gay marriage debate, let us take a few examples (provided to us by many different sources, but the Volokh Conspiracy happens to list a number of them all together in one easily linkable group) of arguments made while the Equal Rights Amendment was being debated.

The first:
"What foes of ERA contend were valid arguments and what advocates claim were emotional scare tactics also seemed to sway sentiment among the women against the amendment [in North Carolina]. Opponents, for example, suggested passage of ERA would mean abortion on demand, legalization of homosexual marriages, sex-integrated prisons and reform schools -- all claims that were hotly denied by ERA supporters." U.S. News & World Report, Apr. 28, 1975

The second:
"The vote in Virginia [against the ERA] came after proponents argued on behalf of civil rights for women and opponents trotted out the old canards about homosexual marriages and unisex restrooms . . . ." Wash. Post, Feb. 19, 1982 (column by Judy Mann).

I could list more, but just read the links if you like. Here and here.

What make these arguments so interesting to me is that they clearly illustrate one point I have been making during this whole discussion. If you remove the barrier prohibiting gay marriage, how will you stop polygamous marriages, boy/man marriages, or even incestuous marriages? There is no logical reason to do so. While I am not claiming that the intelligent advocates of gay marriage (the Poet Laureate, the Minister of Agriculture, and Andrew Sullivan among others) are really secretly desirous of polygamous, child/adult, or incestuous marriage; I am saying that once you go down this road you have very little reason to stop at some other arbitrary point along it.

Re: Federalism, DOMA, and Full Faith and Credit Clause.

The Poet Laureate (aka the Big Hominid) has a long post about these items. In it he asks some questions… Here is one:

“If the FFCC is "supreme," and "prevents" states from enjoying the full benefits of the federalist ideal, how did DOMA get on the books?”

Easy, Congress passed it. Just because Congress passes a law doesn’t mean it is a good law. Indeed, the speed with which the DOMA was passed precludes it from being good law in my book. (Ditto the Patriot Act.) And DOMA, as I understand it, is a little more limited than some people think. Regardless, I believe it would run afoul of the FFCC.

Now, it is only because I grow very tired now that I don’t feel I am going to do a good job summarizing my positions on the Poet Laureate’s post, but I will give it the ole college try.

As I said earlier, the whole matter of a Constitutional Amendment comes about (I think) because the courts are making the decisions here. And ultimately, the only way you can be sure your side wins a legal argument of this magnitude is to make sure the ultimate law of the land supports your side. Both sides feel they have to enshrine their positions in the Constitution. But neither side will be able to do that. And frankly, if they did it wouldn’t be pretty. The Amendment the Hominid didn’t reference was the 18th. That was the Prohibition Amendment. (The 18th was eventually repealed by the 21st Amendment.) One generally doesn’t do well when you try to enshrine a particular moral position in the Constitution. And frankly, one doesn’t do well when you start tampering with the Constitution. Furthermore, I think all proposed (or conjectural) amendments concerning gay marriage should be opposed by all sensible citizens.

Of course, the Congress could invoke the little used and even littler known Article III, Section 2, Paragraph 2 exclusion rule. For those of you who may not know this it goes:

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

This section of the Constitution has been interpreted to mean that Congress can restrict the type of case that could be appealed to the Supreme Court. (And I hope it shows that the legislative branch should have a check against the power of the judicial.) It is possible that Congress could pass a law indicating that the Supreme Court would not be able to hear cases involving the FFCC and gay marriage. But the downside to that would be lots of different decisions by lots of different courts with no overarching precedent. Congress then, might be free to pass whatever law they might to clarify their position in this matter.

The Hominid also revisits his musing where he reflects on why marriage (which he claims to be a civil right of a greater magnitude than voting) is not enshrined in the Constitution, but only sanctioned at a state or local level. This is an interesting point that I would like to comment upon. First, in a democratic republic, I believe the civil right of voting does supercede the civil right to marriage. But that point is really academic. The heart of the question goes straight to the heart of the question of federalism. Why are certain institutions sanctioned at a state/local level? Because, as Tip O’Neill once put it, all politics are local. The founders did believe in separation of powers between the Federal and State governments as much as they believed in the separation of powers within the Federal government. Neighbours getting together on county councils or in state legislatures were much more effective at judging the standards and will of the community than were remote representatives in Washington DC. Most laws in this nation are state and local laws. Individuals have more influence over (but paradoxically less interest in) local politics than national politics. Local laws are supposed to be more responsive to the will of the people than national laws. And going even further to the heart of the matter, according to the Constitution, rights not enumerated in that document are understood to be reserved to the people (Amendments 9 & 10.) And the intent was for the states (or local governments) to spell out those rights as it was required.

Anyway. This post has rambled on long enough. I am tired and shall retire now.

Carry on.

Great Site!

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was directed to this site by a very loyal minon. Gotta love being educated and wanting to expand your horizons. Now pòg mo thòin, and get outta here.

Carry on.

November 25, 2003

Wow.... suddenly I feel kinda dumb...

Ok now remember, I am just a lowly biology type here, but all this Supreme Court stuff does not give me much confidence.

Remember, we just had the Dems determine that x, y, and z judge could not be on various courts and what not, not because they were voted down, but because they used "procedure" to deny a vote from happening.

Basically, each side takes turns stacking the judicial vote in their favor. First abortion is bad, new judges come in and abortion becomes good. Another set and it will be bad again.

My beef is that when "I" read the 2nd Amendment, "I" see that the FM has the right to own a gun (even the ones hollywood says it hates but puts in every movie).

And as most people see it, they have that right as well. I just want it left at that. If Bob doesn't want to own a gun, that is fine for him but if the "courts" determine it isn't a right, it will be a LONG time (if ever) that that right would be returned.

You guys are smart... what am I doing (thinking) wrong here?


Emerson's M-16

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader wanted to thank the M of A for a good post on the M-16. To address some Emerson issues... The Supreme Court does have the final say in interpretation (except in cases where the Congress uses its power to keep the court from deciding a case). But, when the Supreme Court declined to review a case from an Appellate District, that Appellate Case holds the same authority until reviewed by the Supreme Court (if that ever happens). Furthermore, your Maximum Leader doesn't believe that his position has changed. He has always maintained that it is an individual right to gun ownership. And as for writing about the M of A's "proverbial arse..." Your Maximum Leader just likes typing the word arse, especially when refering to the Minister of Agriculture.

And as for the journey of a thousand miles... The journey of a thousand miles sometimes ends very, very badly.

Carry on.


You can always tell when the Minister of Agriculture is giving tests to his students. He has way too much time on his hands to blog.

Thanks to the Maximum Leader for the Emerson case – rather than skipping it, I just missed it. But Miller does highlight the very clear “militia” interpretation of the Second Amendment issued by the Supreme Court. At any rate, thanks to the ML for finding the case name. I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name of the case that had prompted my original concession to the ML. I’ll have to take a look at that DISTRICT case. (I can’t remember, Mike, which court has the final say on the Constitution – the District, Appeal or Supreme Court?)

I was hoping that we might have an adjustment of the Maximum Leader’s position; but once again we have a shift – “what I really meant to say was…” We did squeeze a small concession out of the Maximum Leader. Rather than the militia interpretation being something out of my “proverbial arse,” it now appears the issues are “muddy.”


A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

-- Smallholder

The M-16 and the Lessons of History

The M-16 needs to be replaced.
It may be more accurate than the AK. It may have a longer range.
But it is intolerant of dirt and moisture.
It is the ideal weapon for ideal conditions.
It’s just too bad that we don’t ever fight under ideal conditions.
Kim Du Toit made me aware of another limitation; the length of the M-16 makes it awkward to use inside of a vehicle. Another reason to scrap it.

Instead of moving to a more technological (read: fragile) model, we should use an assault weapon that is simple, lightweight and durable under a range of weather conditions.

Those requirements seem to be describing the AK-47.

America’s need to get fancier and fancier with our infantry weapons reminds me of the small arms race at the end of the last century. As a shift to bolt-action magazine-fed rifles sparked the race. Industrial countries with the exception of France, Germany, and England* began issuing weapons of smaller and smaller calibers – increasing muzzle velocity (accuracy) and reducing ammunition weight (which simplifies logistics).

* France did not rush to develop new weapons – they figured that a reliance on firepower would reduce the élan, or fighting spirit, of their troops – a position favoring moral over material factors that eerily foreshadowed 1930s Japanese military procurement. France actually chose NOT to distribute machineguns to infantry companies because it was feared that lugging the heavier weapon would slow attack speeds. They would pay for this refusal to modernize in the Great War.
Germany did not join the smaller caliber race largely because of their efficient study of military technology – rather than simply worrying about logistics, their research (somewhat confirmed by their observations of the Crimean conflict) showed that at a certain point, smaller calibers became much less capable of incapacitating enemy personnel. The smaller bullets were moving too fast and punched through flesh quickly, rather than slowing down, deforming, and creating the mushroom effect that leaves behind hideous exit wounds.
England did not move to the smaller caliber because their engagement in colonial conflicts led them to emphasize larger bullets that had stopping power. America eventually followed this model – switching to larger calibers (the .45 pistol) when the Philippine Insurrection showed you had to do more than kill the insurgents; you had to knock them down to keep them from falling into your trench and taking you with them as they died.

Both Russia and Japan learned the folly of worshipping accuracy and weight above impact; both sides small arms were relatively ineffective during their 1904-05 conflict.

But the United States didn’t seem to learn that lesson (does it surprise you that our military staff system is modeled after the French, not the Germans?) when they adopted the M-16.
And it doesn’t seem that we have learned from Vietnam and the Gulf Conflicts either. Rather than moving to a more reliable weapon, we are building a better mousetrap with all the bells and whistles. Let’s hope sanity wins out.

It was the blogger! The blogger ate my baby!

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is rather put out today. He went home last night with brain filled with bloggy goodness and proceeded to log into Blogger and blog away on guns and the 2nd Amendment. But then, as many of you might know... Blogger decided to fart, become persnickedy or something. Needless to say, many many many words and some fine ideas were lost... Your Maximum Leader would like to recreate the blog, and might try later tonight, but let me hit some of the highlights.

RE: Churchill. The great man did certainly change and tweak position based on new circumstances. But, it should not be inferred that a small group of core principles did not endure.

RE: 2nd Amendment. Yes, your Maximum Leader did in fact read all of the Volokh sources and provided no unwitting information. But here is where the M of A is wrong. There is a difference between saying that there is no individual right to own a gun and saying that Congress cannot regulate or restrict some types of gun ownership. As the M of A knows, your Maximum Leader, while not a great supporter of gun control at all, doesn't deny that Congress can enact restrictive legislation. (Just as other rights enumerated in the Constitution can be "tweaked" by legislative action and interpretation of the courts. For example "Hate speech" codes that have been upheld although your Maximum Leader feels that most of what is categorized as "hate speech" should be protected by the First Amendment.) And allow your Maximum Leader to get pedantic on the M of A's proverbial arse... The M of A clearly likes to ignore the part of the Second Amendment that reads "..., the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." If you would like, the first part "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,..." is a dependent clause to the main clause. While it is modified, the main clause clearly states that the right of the people shall not be infringed. And furthermore, in US v Emerson 2003, the right of individuals to keep and bear arms was affirmed. BTW, this case was linked at the bottom of the source page on Volokh. I suspect the M of A just chose not to read it. Start down in Section V. concerning the Second Amendment, and see what the court said concerning stare decisis and the Miller case that the M of A quotes extensively. Emerson was not reviewed by the US Supreme Court (although it was appealed to them) and the decision stands unmodified. At best, one can now say that the constitutional waters supporting the argument the M of A is making are muddy.

RE: Warren Burger. He was retired when he said those comments. (And your Maximum Leader would argue - going mad at the same time. He made some very weird constitutional statements during his retirement that (luckily) never found their way into case law.) And if he believed in his position so strongly, why did he not accept a case (of the thousands) for review while Chief Justice that would allow a more comprehensive explaination of the Court's view known?

Regardless... Your Maximum Leader fears that he doesn't have the time now for a comprehensive review of that which he wrote (and lost - curse Blogger!) last night.

Carry on.

November 24, 2003

The Minister of Agriculture: Flip-flopping or Signs of Intelligence?

One definition of intelligence is the ability to modify behavior in reaction to stimuli. If the stimulus changes, the rapidity of an organism’s response is one measure of intelligence.

Why is that when public officials react to new information (stimuli) and change their policy positions (intelligence), instead of being lauded for their acumen they are widely pilloried for their “flip-flop?”

The Maximum Leader and I concur in our admiration of Winston Churchill, one of the greatest figures of the Twentieth Century. Churchill was a study in changing positions based on new information. The country would be better served if our politicians were able to react to changed circumstances and evidence rather than acting as a demagogue debating society.

Perhaps this is the heart of the difference between folks discussing policy. Some folks examine the evidence and find a position, but are willing to change that position based on new evidence. Other folks choose their position in a vacuum of information, and then stubbornly defend their deeply held belief regardless of other information that arrives.

In an earlier post I admitted having changed my earlier opposition to rifle ownership. With additional stimulus – living in the country – I became aware that there are legitimate uses for rifles that do not threaten the common weal. Thus, I modified my position.

I did not modify it based on faulty Second Amendment myths. I also did not modify my belief that the government has the ability to and ought to limit the private ownership of weapons – to “well-regulate” if you will.

The Maximum Leader chooses to ignore the grammar of the Second Amendment and argues that the Amendment applies to individuals. To counter my argument that the courts have consistently ruled against that position, The Maximum Leader unwittingly provided ammunition for the other side. I hope that since he has accepted the authority of the Volokh Conspiracy, he will look at the following two rulings, and having been exposed to new stimuli, er, information, will change his reaction (this is not to say that he needs to change his position against gun control – I am not quibbling with that – my issue is with the erroneous belief that gun ownership is a right).

The Maximum Leader has helpfully provided links to the Volokh Conspiracy. Listed in the Second Amendment resources on the Volokh Conspiracy site is the case of United States v. Miller. So as not to be accused of selective quotation, the entire discussion from Volokh’s site is below. My comments are indicated by the “*”

United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939)
[The only extensive modern discussion of the Amendment]
An indictment in the District Court Western District Arkansas, charged that Jack Miller and Frank Layton "did unlawfully, knowingly, willfully, and feloniously transport in interstate commerce from the town of Claremore in the State of Oklahoma to the town of Siloam Springs in the State of Arkansas a certain firearm, to-wit, a double barrel 12-gauge Stevens shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches in length [contrary to the National Firearms Act] . . . ."

* The issue here: Can Congress regulate firearms OR is the Second Amendment inviolate?*

A duly interposed demurrer alleged: The National Firearms Act is not a revenue measure but an attempt to usurp police power reserved to the States, and is therefore unconstitutional. Also, it offends the inhibition of the Second Amendment to the Constitution -- "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The District Court held that section eleven of the Act violates the Second Amendment. It accordingly sustained the demurrer and quashed the indictment.

* A low level court initially agreed with the argument that the Second Amendment applies to individuals HOWEVER, the Supreme Court, on review of the case (U.S. v. Miller): *

In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a "shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length" at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense. Aymette v. State, 2 Humphreys (Tenn.) 154, 158.

* Aha! The next court then rules that since the sawed-off shotgun is not necessary to the “preservation of a WELL REGULATED militia,” Congress DOES have the power to limit gun ownership. *

The Constitution as originally adopted granted to the Congress power -- "To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress." With obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted and applied with that end in view.

* Dear Maximum Leader, I invite you to reread that last sentence. The Supreme Court in Miller v. U.S., clearly ruled that the Second Amendment MUST be interpreted and applied with the end of protecting state militias. It just can’t get any clearer than this. *

The Militia which the States were expected to maintain and train is set in contrast with Troops which they were forbidden to keep without the consent of Congress. The sentiment of the time strongly disfavored standing armies; the common view was that adequate defense of country and laws could be secured through the Militia -- civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion.
The signification attributed to the term Militia appears from the debates in the Convention, the history and legislation of Colonies and States, and the writings of approved commentators. These show plainly enough that the Militia comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense. "A body of citizens enrolled for military discipline." And further, that ordinarily when called for service these men were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time. [Citing further sources, e.g., the Virginia Act of October 1785 providing for a Militia of "all free male persons between the ages of eighteen and fifty years," with certain exceptions.]

* A “body of citizens enrolled for military discipline. This isn’t private individuals. *

I’ll leave off the Volokh discussion for a moment.
Gentle reader if you wish to follow the links the Maximum Leader noted below and actually read the court cases, I invite you to do so. Also pay attention to Lewis v. U.S., the only major Second Amendment issue to reach the Supreme Court in the last 25 years – 1980. The Supreme Court ruled ONCE AGAIN that the Second Amendment does NOT apply to individuals.

There have been numerous instances of lower courts upholding citywide bans on handguns – again on the principal that the Second Amendment does not apply to individuals.

Although the NRA does not include that inconvenient fact in their pamphlets, the legal team of the NRA knows this to be true. They do not challenge gun laws on the basis of the Second Amendment because it is a sure loser. When they have had success, it has been based on the federalism issue – overturning federal laws that place an undue burden on state law enforcement.

In my earlier post, I said that there had only been one success (in a lower level court) for the individualistic interpretation of the First Amendment:
Earlier MOA:

(Note: Last year, I had to send the Maximum Leader a congratulatory note; an appeals court actually overturned a gun law on the basis of the Second Amendment. Since I support the rule of law, I have to now concede that the Second Amendment does give some protections to an individual's right to own firearms)

Note that I was actually acting intelligently here – The position I had argued for so long had been changed by a new court ruling – new information. Instead of applauding the intelligent reaction to new information, the ML used this admission of the facts to get in a cheap shot (oh, the poor oppressed MOA! Do I deserve another Undersecretary yet?):

The ML wrote:

“Of course, my favourite part of the post is right at the end of that 8th paragraph where the M of A deliciously writes: "Last year, I had to send the Maximum Leader a congratulatory note; an appeals court actually overturned a gun law on the basis of the Second Amendment. Since I support the rule of law, I have to now concede that the Second Amendment does give some protections to an individual's right to own firearms." Your Maximum Leader just loves what the M of A can put into a note... Allow your Maximum Leader to summarize for the rest of the minions who may not have been reading too closely: the Minister of Agriculture said that there was no individual right to gun ownership; then said there is. Humm... Can't get much clearer than that can we?”

Earlier in the note, I was accused of talking out of my “proverbial arse” on the court rulings. I hope I have demonstrated that the very links the ML used to support his individualistic fantasy actually support my contention about the courts consistently ruling for the militia interpretation. Except of course for that pesky ruling a couple of years ago. I would really love to know the name of the case – please e-mail the ML if you know it so we can look it up.

But leaving aside the court cases, lets check in with someone who is, one might argue, more familiar with Constitutional issues than your Maxmimum Leader, his Agricultural Minister, or even Professor Volokh:
In 1991, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger referred to the Second Amendment as "the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,' on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.. .[the NRA] ha(s) misled the American people and they, I regret to say, they have had far too much influence on the Congress of the United States than as a citizen I would like to see — and I am a gun man." Burger also wrote, "The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon...[S]urely the Second Amendment does not remotely guarantee every person the constitutional right to have a ‘Saturday Night Special' or a machine gun without any regulation whatever. There is no support in the Constitution for the argument that federal and state governments are powerless to regulate the purchase of such firearms..."
In conclusion, we can argue all day about the reasonableness and efficacy of gun control legislation, but we should move beyond the empty fraud that the individual gun ownership is a right. Just like all other topics, decisions should be made based on the common weal, not pseudo-historical crap.

-- Smallholder

M-16's, shotguns, militias etc.

Gotta admit. I don't understand the facination with guns that many people here have. I'm also not a big fan of speaking about onesself in the third person, but that's a whole other issue.

Granted, the Minister of Agriculture living in the wilds of central Virginia, might conceivably need to defend himself and his family from the roving bands of starving groundhogs, that have been known to actually dammage gardens. So he needs a gun.

The ML has found that terminating with extreme prejudice is an occupational hazzard at his new location of employment. So I guess he needs guns. And he needs an intern, but that's another story.

And the Foreign Minister lives on hostile soil. Since ML is too cheap to get him a body guard, I guess he needs guns.

Me, I live in a house in suburbia. I have a geriatric spaniel protecting my estate.

Best Blog in DC?

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader bought a copy of "Washingtonian" magazine over the weekend to review the "Best of Washington" section that comes out annually. In the magazine they say that the Daily Talking Points Memo is the best blog in Washington (DC). Your Maximum Leader went over and reviewed the blog for a while yesterday. Politics aside, it didn't seem that much better or different than many other DC area blogs... Humm... Your Maximum Leader smells payola...

Carry on.

Good on Ya, Mate!

Australia... home of AC/DC and the Wiggles. Are they the biggest contribution to world culture from Down Under? Maybe. Don't laugh. These guys did 12 shows at Madison Square Garden this month.

Bye bye M-16...

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been mulling over how he is going to be responding to recent gay marriage posts. He thinks there are going to really be two posts. The first on the backlash/legislative decision v. judicial decision/slippery slope aspect. The second will likely be more philosophical and abstract.

Since we are speaking about guns here of late, your Maximum Leader read about how the US Army is phasing out the M-16. While this seems to be a good idea overall (your Maximum Leader has always thought the AK-47 is a superior general purpose military rifle), I didn't know much about the rifle "system" that was slated to replace the M-16. Then I read over Kim Du Toit's blog on the M-16 and the new "oik" rifle. Your Maximum Leader finds it hard to believe that the US Army is going to go with a 78 pound weapon that appears to as dainty as the M-16. Humm... Not good. As Du Toit alluded, what happened to the days of platoons that had a number of riflemen, one machine gunner, and a solider with an RPG? I agree that it seems to be a bad idea to have every solider perform every role himself. I sometimes worry about our military's love of all things technological.

And speaking of that, how about this item about drone aircraft. I grew disturbed by the line saying that the F-35 might be the last piloted aircraft for the US Air Force. Am I the only one thinking that all an adversary of the US needs to do is find a way to implement a sophisticated communications jamming system in a regional battlefield to seriously upset the US' ability to wage war? I remember reading about a war game done within the last five years were the "enemy" team had the typical Soviet era ground forces and air forces array - but one small nuke. The "enemy" team launched the nuke into space and exploded it to have the EMP disable US communications satellites and such stuff. The Pentagon "judges" declared the wargame over immediately after this saying the "enemy" didn't play fair. The result of the EMP was that the US lost much of it high-tech advantage and was poised to loose on the ground. (I've tried for a few minutes to find a link, but had to give up...)

Disturbing trends overall I believe. Perhaps this is also an area in which all contributors to this space might agree...

Carry on.

November 22, 2003


Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has been following some of the Cuba debate alluded to by the Foreign Minister. I was not under the impression that a general lifting of the travel ban was enacted. (And this article shows my thought was correct.) Personally, I have no desire to travel to Castro's Cuba. I do very much want to travel to Cuba in a general sense, but will not go while Castro holds sway over the Cuban people. I am under the impression that if Americans fly to other Caribbean nations (like Jamaica for example) they can get on a plane to Cuba, and when they arrive the Cubans will give them a Visa stamp on a separate piece of paper that they can hold in (but not attach to) their passport. Then when they leave Cuba, they dispose of the slip of paper with the Cuban Visa and the US Department of State is none the wiser.

Carry on.

Piling on.

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader just loves it when the Minister of Agriculture has to revise prior statements. (Just as I am sure that he loves it when your Maximum Leader resists revising his...) Allow me to just say "here, here" to the Foreign Minister's comments and then pile on with some of my own.

First, where exactly does he come up with " Historically speaking, arguing that the militia consisted of all free men was bunk;...?" Humm could it be that historically speaking a "well-regulated militia" did in fact mean all free men. Let's start with the Father of the Bill of Rights, George Mason who wrote this into the Virginia Constitution of 1776 (widely viewed as the precursor to the US Bill of Rights): "That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defense of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided as dangerous to liberty; and that in all cases the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power." It is Section 13 of the VA Constitution of 1776. Check it out if you like. I will point out that this language was used to be the first draft of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.

Your Maximum Leader was just surfing around trying to find other sources to back up his position. And remembered that the good Eugene Volokh, of the Volokh Conspiracy, is a Second Amendment Scholar (among other things). And he has a lovely sampling of source materials on this issue. I commend them to the Minister of Agriculture so that he might become enlightened. A quick review of the source materials show that the good Minister of Agriculture seems to be talking out of his proverbial arse when he asserts "Additionally, the courts had always agreed with me." Humm, it appears as though the courts haven't always agreed with you.

Of course, my favourite part of the post is right at the end of that 8th paragraph where the M of A deliciously writes: "Last year, I had to send the Maximum Leader a congratulatory note; an appeals court actually overturned a gun law on the basis of the Second Amendment. Since I support the rule of law, I have to now concede that the Second Amendment does give some protections to an individual's right to own firearms." Your Maximum Leader just loves what the M of A can put into a note... Allow your Maximum Leader to summarize for the rest of the minions who may not have been reading too closely: the Minister of Agriculture said that there was no individual right to gun ownership; then said there is. Humm... Can't get much clearer than that can we?

As for the whole public safety argument about guns... To what extent would it be acceptable to limit other civil rights in the name of "public safety" or the "common weal?" Isn't this the very debate going on around the country concerning the Patriot Act? The M of A may be contented to allow the courts or the various legislative bodies around the country limit his liberty in the interest of nebulous interests of "public safety," but until the MWO comes - your Maximum Leader is not. (And rest assured, the M of A's liberty will be severely restricted during the MWO. Just to make a point...)

Carry on my minions.

November 21, 2003

Egad! Guns for me are fine but not those other nuts!

The M of A really believes all that stuff he writes which is why I love him so dearly. The beautiful thing about it all is, at this moment, he has more guns in his house than I do!

I also get a giggle out of the fact that he has leapfrogged over getting a shotgun (which he has always touted as the only legitimate firearm to own) and gone for the Big Guns and bought himself a rifle.

If I had told him 10 years ago he would be Bambi's worst nightmare with a rifle he'd have never believed me.

At the same time, the M of A has some really good and persuasive arguments about Gun Control and I often have to rethink the whole issue. Hats off to him.

I have always approached it from a different angle though, and while I admit I spent more time in the bio lab than reading US history and Gov't, I feel that a lot of what the founding fathers were doing was more about establishing a means for the people to protect themselves from tyrannical governments than from foreign armies or duck hunting. I know that is what voting is for but you never know about things.

On another note, I took both the quizzes that the M L posted below and I turned out to be 1) Glucose and 2) G W himself.

Personally, I am upset about the glucose thing, but it could have been worse. It could have told me I was a fat cell. Come to think of it, it would have been a bummer to have been Colin Powell.

Gay marriage
I seem to fall on the side of the fence that says love is where you find it and if that means you meet and fall in love with someone of the same sex (or different race, religion, or fan of another football team) than so be it. I don't mind them using the word marriage either. So what?
All this from a Conservative Republican Southern Baptist. Or maybe if I really feel that way I aint such a Conservative, Republican, or Baptist. Maybe I am just mellowing with age (maybe I have been in Euroland too long.)

Hey M L! or anyone else in the cabinet, what is the latest on opening up US Citizens traveling to Cuba? I am dying to go myself. It would be a hoot to have the MWO meet there for a think tank or something else cool like that. I heard that the Senate and House approved it but that W was gonna give it the axe. I would hate to change from being a one issue voter to a two issue voter.

Its almost midnight in Europe so I am signing off.

How the Minister of Agriculture Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Firearms

The Foreign Minister has evidently been hearing rumors from the Maximum Leader that their liberal anti-NRA comrade has become a death-dealing trigger-happy mass murderer.

Yes, my friend, it is true. While not quite up to world-record category, I have ended six lives over the last few months with my trusty 306. Bwa-ha-ha-ha.

However, in the best tradition of the Maximum Leader, I will refuse to acknowledge that my present actions in any way contradict my previously espoused positions.

Let me 'splain.

Back in college, the Foreign Minister and I engaged in regular debates over gun control legislation. Since college and his acquisition of firearms, the Maximum Leader has frequently put in his pro-gun two cents.

I held that handgun control was a GOOD thing. I advocated the use of shotguns for home defense since you are more likely to hit your target while stressed, deter the need to shoot, and were unlikely to send a round through the wall, across the street, through another wall and into the head of a seven-year old snug in her bed.

I strongly disagreed with the argument that anyone had a RIGHT to own weapons. It seems to me that anyone with a rudimentary understanding of the English language could parse the sentence "A WELL-REGULATED militia being necessary to the security of a free State the right of people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." Historically speaking, arguing that the militia consisted of all free men was bunk; the "well-regulated" portion of the phrase was meant to directly contradict this. The Founding Fathers had no truck with the whole Nathaniel Bacon/Daniel Shays type of nonsense. The occasional idiotic Jeffersonian quip about the tree of liberty aside, the geniuses who created our nation and form of government did so in part to prevent citizens with guns from challenging the sovereignty of the government.

Additionally, the courts had always agreed with me. As I noted, the people who get to interpret the meaning of the Constitution wear black robes, not NRA buttons. No court had ever overturned gun-restrictions based on the Second Amendment, the pro-gun folks always challenged using other issues because using the Second Amendment was a sure loser. (Note: Last year, I had to send the Maximum Leader a congratulatory note; an appeals court actually overturned a gun law on the basis of the Second Amendment. Since I support the rule of law, I have to now concede that the Second Amendment does give some protections to an individual's right to own firearms)

My argument wasn't necessarily against guns. It was that gun laws should be judged on the basis of efficacy rather than in some silly "It's mah raigh" context. Quite clearly, I believed, private ownership of weapons is not a right. Until recently, the courts had agreed with me.
So I had no problem with gun registration. What's the big deal? (NRA parrots: "The first thing the Nazis did was to register gun owners." MOA: "Gosh, you're right. We also better make sure the trains don't ever run on time!")

I had no problem with limits on handguns other than a concern that enforcement was impractical -- how do you get the millions of handguns off the streets?

I had no problem with banning assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank weapons.

I also did not see the recreation argument as being sufficient in and of itself. If a gun law would effectively save lives, the fact that the Foreign Minister liked to light things up with his Nazi machinegun (and let's face it; machinegunning targets is way cool!) isn't a sufficient reason to allow bad folks to kill people with the same weapon. When lives are weighed against shits-and-grins, I'll take lives any day as a matter of social policy. Convince me that banning machineguns won't really save lives, and then the enjoyment factor will win out. My position is that people should argue the gun issue on the merits of the impact of particular laws. I guess a good analogy would be the fact that even though the Big Hominid enjoys publicly defecating in mall food courts, public health concerns outweigh his personal satisfaction and if he indulges in his hobby the government will lock him up.

So, as a result, I tend to believe in the use of shotguns for home defense. I have also come to see that rifles are a useful tool for farmers. I can see banning rifles in urban areas since I can envision no non-anti-personal use for a rifle in an urban area. (Check out the multiple negatives in that sentence! Weep, English major, weep!)

However, as a farmer, my 306 is a useful tool. Groundhogs are bad for pasture they dig holes that can break the legs of cattle. While I personally think groundhogs are cute, if they threaten my animals, I'm going to do them in.

The same thing is true with roaming dogs. I am very sorry that my irrational distaste for shooting a poultry-chasing dog resulted in the loss of one of my guinea hens. If I had shot the dog on the first visit (as was my legal right) instead of returning it to the owner, the second fatal visit would not have occurred. I (hope) I won't make that mistake again.

I use the rifle most often to protect my orchard, small berry planting, and vineyard. These items are deer magnets and if I left them unprotected, I would in short order lose thousands of dollars worth of plantings and considerable amounts of labor.

I first tried to keep the deer out using a slant fence that screws up the depth perception of deer. The Maximum Leader and his family helped my father and I put the slant fence together, a very laborious and expensive proposition. I then electrified the fence. This worked for a little over a year. At that point, some deer found the weak point in the fence, the unslanted truck gate. I had some serious damage. As a commercial grower, I called the game warden and he came out and gave me a kill permit to protect my crops. The rifle, therefore, is a useful tool.

That being said, I don't want yahoos running around with loaded weapons even if they are sons of the soil. I am very careful with every shot I take, I make sure that even if I miss (not a problem with a scope but it was a problem when I was using the open-sighted unzeroed weapons I borrowed from the Maximum Leader and the Foreign Minister) the round will not travel and accidentally kill a neighbor. There are plenty of people who are not that careful. As my father often says, you can't legislate against stupidity. So if the government required me to take a gun safety course as a prerequisite to owning a rifle, I would not object. In fact, in Virginia you are required to take a gun safety course before you get a hunting license (but if you are only hunting on your land you do not need a license).

I have killed six deer over the last few months. I don't necessarily enjoy the killing part but I have come to take a certain pride in the fact that my kills have been instant and the deer didn't suffer. I guess there is a certain enjoyment in the technical aspect of the achievement, shot placement, etc. I also enjoyed serving venison at a big family dinner, just as with fish, it always tastes better when you caught it yourself. Finally, it is nice to donate meat to food pantries.

So, to some it all up:

Yes, my friends, I am using a firearm on a regular basis.


I still believe in rational gun control if it means that lives will be saved.

-- Minister of Agriculture

Shocked and Appalled!

The Minister of Agriculture has followed the Maximum Leader’s link to the article about Sushi.

Allow me to say that as a liberal, I am shocked, just shocked, that there are men who objectify women in this way.

But at least the models are partially clad. It’s not as if it’s a bunch of guys at a bachelor party in Williamsburg eating Sushi off of an entirely naked woman named Taya. That, my friends, would be truly disturbing.

-- Minister of Agriculture

For the Monty Python geek in all loyal minions...

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader thanks Eugene Volokh for answering the true riddle of the Grail: What is the airspeed velocity of an unladed swallow? Answer: About 24 miles per hour.

Carry on.

Enzymes, Rove, and Reason.

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was over reading Classical Values, and is normal on Friday, there are some Quizilla tests there. Your Maximum Leader took one and discovered that if he was a molocule he would be an enzyme. Here is the skinny:

You are an enzyme. You are powerful, dark,
variable, and can change many things at your
whim...even when they're not supposed to be
changed. Bad you. You can be dangerous or
wonderful; it's your choice.

Which Biological Molecule Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

In another test, your Maximum Leader discovered that if he were in the Bush Admin he would be Karl Rove.

You're a friggin' genius!
You're Karl Rove! You're the de facto leader
of this great nation, also serving as godfather
of the family Bush.

Which member of the Bush Administration are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

On the discussion with the Poet Laureate, your Maximum Leader will have to give some careful consideration to his upcoming post. It might take some time to compose. (Just warning you all not to expect a treatis today.)

Update: Your Maximum Leader sees the Minister of Agriculture has weighed in on gay marriage too. Will review and respond accordingly.

Carry on.

The Minister of Agriculture on Gay Marriage, Smugness, and Fatherhood

The Maximum Leader’s Minister of Agriculture would like to (briefly) re-enter the fray over gay marriage.

<< Pre-missive note: The last time I posted on this topic the Maximum Leader called my essay “shrill.” Conservative v. Liberal name calling, anyone? At any rate, his mockery led to a rebuke from Mrs. Maximum Leader and an apology of sorts from our megalomaniacal standard-bearer who made amends by appointing an Assistant Minister of Agriculture. This missive, unlike the last, does not rely on reasoned argument and actually is rather shrill. If the Maximum Leader feels I have crossed the line, I beg him to forgive my rhetorical excess and to delete this post. I would prefer, however, to repeat the earlier cycle of nastiness/apology so that I might acquire an Undersecretary of Agriculture. I believe Mademoiselles Theron, Diaz, or Milano could handle the portfolio…>>


I am feeling rather smug because I know that “right will out.” Opposition to equal rights for gays is a generational issue. As old bigots die, justice will prevail. (That last sentence brought to you courtesy of the Big Hominid and the ML’s discussion of political name-calling. How ya like dem apples, ya liberal-bashing conservatives?)

Seriously, the expansion of equality is a recurring theme of American history. Thomas Jefferson, able to sit down and contemplate justice and freedom while watching his slaves out of Monticello’s windows, may have only meant white male property owners over the age of 25 when he wrote “all men are created equal,” but a free people’s sense of social justice has been continually expanding the definition of “all men.”

The Maximum Leader and his ilk may egofetishworship at the altar of Judeo-Christian tradition. One suspects that, back in 1860, they would have been vociferous supporters of the Reverend Wilson and “tradition.” Wilson’s sermon, “Mutual Relation of Masters and Slaves as Taught in the Bible” which reflected the vast majority of religious opinion in the South, can be found at:

(And yes, you English majors out there, I am fully aware that there is no such verb as “egofetishworship.” But as a German-American, I feel a certain license to combine words like my erstwhile countrymen. This glorious tradition has brought us the wonderful noun “schadenfreude.”)

So while the bigots reject reason and justice and cling to “tradition,” I can take comfort from the fact that America’s traditional, if slow, pursuit of justice will eventually win. Just look at the poll numbers broken down by age groups. The Maximum Leader and I share a reverence for a certain P.M. who once said “America can be depended upon to do the right thing – after exhausting all the other options.”

However –

It is hard to be complacent and wait for the inevitable victory. I am reminded of the better, but often forgotten, second half of Goldwater’s maxim: “Moderation in pursuit of Justice is no virtue.”

As a father, this takes on a new immediacy. I have a wonderful daughter and I want her to have all the opportunities in the world and I want her to be happy. Even if she is gay. I hope and pray that she is not – I would not want my daughter to grow up with an orientation that leads to rejection and persecution at the hands of the bigoted (current and temporary) majority. But, facing reality, there is a 3-5% chance that she is gay. If I truly love my daughter, and I emphatically do, I do not want her to be a second class citizen in her own society.

A person who is peripherally involved in this debate has claimed that fatherhood has made him MORE opposed to granting equal rights to homosexuals. I would like to hear him weigh in on this issue. At the risk of sounding like a Rawlsian*, if his child is too young to have begun demonstrating orientation, wouldn’t a father want to hedge his bets out of love for that child?

* The Maximum Leader and I read Rawls together in college and both concluded that his philosophy is untenable. However, it strikes me that the rhetorical tool of the original position is useful here.

While it is easy to advocate discrimination in the abstract, it is generally harder to advocate discrimination against someone you know. Unless you are the Speaker of the House and your sister is gay.

Even if the Maximum Leader rejects arguments of reason and justice, perhaps contemplating the villainettes will pry his lips from the teats of tradition.

I stand ready for the firing squad.

Minister of Agriculture

Welcome a new blogging minion!

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is pleased to see that his trusted Foreign Minister has decided to post in this space from Germany. The Foreign Minister is a longtime friend (and minion) of the Maximum Leader. The FM is living the high life on the banks of the Main River in Germany, and will (I hope) give us his thoughts and views of the situation in Europe; as well as his thoughts and opinions on events, happenings, and life in general. Like the Minister of Agriculture, the Foreign Minister and the Maximum Leader go way back to our (growing ever distant) halcyon college days. (In case you cared, your Maximum Leader has known the Air Marshal since Middle/High school; and the Poet Laureate since 3rd grade.)

Welcome my Foreign Minister. May your opinions be pointed, your powder dry, and your beer European.

Carry on.

Foreign Minister moves into new office on Banks of Main River

Well, it seems that as soon as the FM moves away from the good ol' UK, they let all the loonies out to protest in the streets.

It is certainly refreshing that our Muslim friends in Iraq now have this right as well. Hell, I will even go so far as to say, that as fk'd up as the press is reporting Iraq to be, it is probably (as we speak) the most liberal country in the Middle East now. All that was formally "verboten" (porn, alcohol, sodomy, protesting government etc) is now out in open and able to be experienced.

Of course your Islamic brothers may mash your head in for doing it but hey, welcome to democracy!

Anyway, I have now set up office on the banks of the Main River (pronounced “mine” for you philistines out there) and am pleasantly settling in to the Germanic way of life.

One interesting note, contrary to stereotyping of the German people, they actually love to party. They will use any excuse imaginable to throw up a tent and start drinking and eating. Good fun.

Also, now I have figured out why records have a “B” side. The Germans love that stuff. Take any hit record flip it over and play it for the Germans, they’ll love it and will probably know all the words.

Its no wonder that folks like David Hasselhoff are “big in Germany”.

A big thank you to the ML for letting me post on this site. Hopefully I will be able to chime in with news from the front from time to time.

General news and updates.

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader decided to post one or two more things today and then go up to his comfortable bed in the ole Villainschloss and give Mrs. Villain some good luvin'.

First. Has your Maximum Leader ever said on the record that Winds of Change is possibly the best all around blog in the blogosphere? It is. Great mix of opinions and essays and news for everyone. Your Maximum Leader read this article by Armed Liberal, and thought it was topical to the ongoing discussions here. Just like the Minster of Agriculture's comments about burial in veterans cemeteries, these comments are powerfully emotional.

Next, your Maximum Leader and the Poet Laureate might go out and see a movie tomorrow. It is hard to decide what to see. It will likely be on of these three: Kill Bill, Matrix Revolutions, or Master and Commander. Your Maximum Leader is leaning towards Master and Commander - as it is probably the best of the three. Perhaps we shall also catch a bite to eat too... Fun fun!

Beautiful, just beautiful. Now lets see if he is convicted and gets jail time. Michael Jackson strikes me as one who would have to be in solitary a lot.

Has the Poet Laureate read this? Although not a strict enough in this department, your Maximum Leader is a big believer in sensible diet and regular excercise.

Check out the last "talking Derb Doll" quotation. It sounds like something your Maximum Leader would say in the most purple prose he could summon up.

And lastly, your Maximum Leader has invited another loyal minion to guest blog in this space. So if you see an unfamiliar tag line, it is likely him.

Carry on.

Be cerful, yew jus mite learned somethin'

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader decided to browse the Poet Laureate's site and discovered that the Poet Laureate had been browsing this site! Egads! Then, he claimed he had to go quickly - but much to my amusement found a way to type out another 1500 words (totaling something like 7800 characters). Your Maximum Leader figures this took at least one hour. So much for not having blog time...

Well, your Maximum Leader decided to add more to this ongoing debate. Here goes...

The good Hominid writes: Having theorized that liberals worship reason (he states at the beginning of his post that he has no intention of substantiating this claim, so it's pretty much an article of faith-- an article routinely contradicted by fellow conservatives who endlessly refer to liberal positions as "irrational" or "unreasonable" or "blinded by ideology"..., Burgess-Jackson valorizes tradition...

Insofar as conservatives calling liberals "irrational," "unreasonable," or "blinded by ideology" goes, it is, for the most part, just name calling. And the name calling is as rampant in the liberal to conservative direction as well. Your Maximum Leader seriously doubts that this name calling is indicative of anything except rhetorical bluster in most cases. Admittedly, in some media (like these blogs for example) when one person claims another is "irrational" the accuser generally cites some particular claim.

Burgess Jackson writes: "Actually, conservatives respect reason as well, but they are skeptical that any particular human or group of humans (think vanguard of the proletariat) can do better than the accumulated wisdom that tradition represents. Tradition is a record of trial and error, success and failure. It is not to be taken lightly. One should tamper with it only where it is unambiguously bad. But this, the conservative says, is rarely the case. So perhaps it's more accurate to say that while both liberals and conservatives respect reason, only liberals exalt it.

Traditions reflect not just trial and error over a long period of time but compromises, some of which are difficult to discern.

The Big Hominid writes: I don't doubt that traditions are successful beneficiaries of trial-and-error, but (1) this doesn't erase the fact that traditions have beginnings, i.e., somebody had to innovate, and probably had to push against a previous paradigm, and (2) there are too many traditions still in existence that produce suffering and injustice... ...stupidity rides along the memeplexes of various traditions. This undercuts the idea that the vaunted trial-and-error process weeds out the bad and leaves only what's worthy of protecting (or that which is "not to be taken lightly," as Burgess-Jackson argues). If you're going to use the Darwinian paradigm to argue your case, as Burgess-Jackson is, you have to explore the analogy more fully. Species survive with a lot of useless crap attached to otherwise useful forms... My point is that the trial-and-error process perpetuates human venality along with human nobility.

Unless I misunderstand him, I believe the Big Hominid is saying that the fact that there are bad or even harmful traditions undercuts the implication that traditions are on the whole good. I disagree. I do not believe that Burgess-Jackson is implying that all traditions are good. Indeed, he recognizes that traditions are a record of past experience; the outcome of that experience might still result in what one might consider a bad or harmful tradition. That tradition can be changed or eliminated when society is ready to make the change. Burgess-Jackson is (and I am as well) not arguing that society is static and unchanging, but that serious consideration of past experience as well as logical reasoning need be applied before a change is made. I believe, and I think history is replete with examples of, times when tradition and custom were completely overthrown for the dictatorship of reason. (Communist Russia and the French Revolution under the Directory and the Committee of Public Safety are the first examples to jump to my mind.) I believe that too many political determinations have been made (or are being made) in our time without proper consideration being given to maintaining the status quo. The very pertinent question of what ELSE could result from a societal change is not often asked, because logically it felt my many not to be germane. This is the crux of the "slippery slope" argument I was making a few months ago in my gay marriage posts. Once you remove the societal barriers to an action, and replace them with only logical barriers, you oftentimes end up with no barriers at all. This is because people can change the definition of terms or set new premises to an argument and thereby achieve a completely new outcome.

The Hominid continues: I think it's a mistake to paint liberals as overly rational when that's not what you generally hear in mainstream conservative rhetoric about liberals. I think it's also a mistake not to point out where tradition is wrong-- and by not pointing these things out, Burgess-Jackson opens himself to accusations of dishonesty, or at least willful ignorance.

Again, I think the mainstream commentary from both political parties consists of way too much name calling. Generally when a conservative calls a liberal irrational, it is because a particular idea they are espousing makes no sense in the context of society. But that is not to say that the idea being espoused does not make logical sense in the abstract. In the abstract, "not making enemies" (as Sheryl Crow recently suggested in one of her first foreign policy addresses) is a great idea. But practically it is not viable option in real-world diplomacy. I don't think Burgess-Jackson is being dishonest or willfully ignorant. As I read him, he recognizes that traditions change on the one hand (but hopes that it will not change too quickly or without plenty of thought); and on the other point he states that liberals believe that reason applied to any problem will find a solution. If anything Burgess-Jackson should give some examples of this. I contend that he is assuming that examples are taken "as read" by the reader.

Then we move on to the contentious issue of gay marriage.

Burgess-Jackson points out at first that simple arguments by conservatives are not adequate for dealing with an institution like marriage. To which the Hominid writes:

We are indeed dealing with an institution, but one that has no universally agreed-upon definition, which has been my point since I wrote my gay marriage post... Marriage is a multifaceted, multilayered institution. It has sexual, social, legal, psychological, and economic dimensions... And nowhere in this post, aside from a vaguely-proposed paradigm of trial-and-error, does Burgess-Jackson deal with the empirically obvious fact that "marriage," like all reality, is a changing, dynamic thing... This debate isn't really about changing the institution: at this point in the game, the change is already occurring. The question is whether and how the change should be acknowledged. This has been my point from the beginning: the people who are legislating meaning are the people unwilling to acknowledge the social changes that have already occurred and are continuing to gain momentum.

Update: Your Maximum Leader must point out, for the sake of accuracy, that the line: "Marriage is a multifaceted, multilayered institution. It has sexual, social, legal, psychological, and economic dimensions." Belongs to Prof. Burgess-Jackson, not the Poet Laureate.

Here is where I will take issue with the Hominid. While I agree that marriage may have no universally agreed-upon definition, it does, in the context of our Anglo-American/Judeo-Christian society have a commonly agreed-upon definition. Recognizing that in this society a significant number of people have started to change their personal definition of marriage, the fact remains that there is a commonly held definition which up to this point has had the force of law behind it. And that definition has been binding socially for centuries. While in the abstract we can debate that marriage might not have a single universal definition, in the world of civil society it does. Yes the reality of the situation is changing, insomuch as this wouldn't have been an issue at all 100, 50, or even 25 years ago. It is an issue now. A significant number of people believe that the common definition of marriage is in need of some change. They are advocating this position in society and asking courts to make determinations. The reason we are having this discussion is that there is change is not generally agreed upon (or I would contend, even agreed upon by a simple majority of people). This is where reason and its application come into the equation. The Massachusetts Supreme Court very logically held that if the state constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, then the commonly-held definition of marriage is discriminatory. What I believe Burgess-Jackson, and I, have been saying is that this is reason at its most destructive. By looking at this issue purely from an abstract and rational position, the court's decision is a perfectly sound one. But the slippery-slope of reason does start to apply. Why stop with gay marriage? Why not allow brothers and sisters to marry? Boys and Men? How can you determine a logically sound limitation to two willing people getting married? You can't. In the abstract there is no reason. This is the problem with this issue when examining it from another angle.

(And I will not even touch on a very important sub-debate here. Namely, is this an issue for courts to decide or for a legislative body to address.)

The Hominid wrote: I appreciate Burgess-Jackson's caution about exalting reason. I'm a religion student, so I don't give reason primacy of place, either. To phrase this in a Christian way: faith and reason can never be equal partners. Logical reasoning, in order to be at all relevant to human existence, has to begin with postulates, and last I checked, these are usually considered unprovable. All reason begins with a leap (or maybe several leaps) of faith. So if Burgess-Jackson and the Maximum Leader are both saying that exalting reason is bad, then I actually agree, because a worldview that exalts reason to the exclusion of tradition, etc. is bound to fail.

I think we are both saying that exalting reason to the detriment of tradition and custom (however irrational) is generally bad.

But the Hominid's other hand says: But by the same token, swinging totally in the other just as bad.

Also agreed. I think the sub text here is (as I have said before) there is something inherently unsatisfying about saying "We've always done it this way and let's not change." Perhaps an analogy is appropriate. When debating major changes in the way society behaves, change should have the burden of proof. Assume "the way it is" is the accused party in a trial. Those advocating change can apply reason to the circumstances and have the burden to demonstrate clearly that the status quo is not satisfactory. This would build consensus that a change should be made. Unfortunately, this is not what most people who want to change the status quo want to do. They present a logically sound argument and become indignant (or resort to name calling) when other don't immediately come around. Additionally, we live in a society that happens to like change. This is the blessing and curse of being Americans. Change is our tradition. (Unlike many Asian or European societies where the status quo is much more entrenched.) You're poor? Get a job, work hard, change yourself and you could become rich. You don't like your church? Great, change churches. Want start over? Great, move to a new town, reinvent yourself, change your surroundings and bingo - a whole new you.

I believe what Burgess-Jackson and I are saying is that perhaps we should become a little more fond of the status quo (tradition and custom) and a little less fond of reason and change.

Finally, the Hominid gets to my "reason is destructive" exhortation: From my nondualist perspective I contend: reason isn't inherently bad or destructive. Nothing is inherently anything. Reason is a tool. In science, the application of reason can produce bombs (themselves tools for good or ill) or new agricultural techniques (also tools for good or ill). I reject any objectivist claims about what reason is or isn't.

Your Maximum Leader stands by his claim that reason (outside of math and science) is a destructive faculty. Outside of math and science what is it used for? Destroying something or another. The outcome of that destruction might end up being judged as a "good" thing. But it is destruction nonetheless.

And as an aside to the Big Hominid, as a non-dualist, is there anything that can be inherently something? Although he knows better, your Maximum Leader was afraid you were slipping into some sort of Post-modernist trance. He feared that somewhere out there Jacques Derrida or Michel Foucault had a little (perhaps 1/4 scale) Hominid voodoo doll and was casting a spell on you.

Well, another theoretical discussion continues my minions. Your Maximum Leader hopes you are learning something from all this.

Carry on.

November 20, 2003

A philosopher who is talking sense!

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is really really really impressed with this prof. After only a day on the blogroll Professor Burgess-Jackson is (again) making a similar point to one your Maximum Leader made a while ago. The esteemed Minister of Agriculture (who, by the way, really should post some sort of organic farming column from time to time in this spot) accused your Maximum Leader of creating a debating artifice by eliminating reason from his position. Your Maximum Leader said this was not the case. My position has been that one should conserve the elements of our civilization that have been shown to be beneficial through years (centuries) of human experience. Thus, tradition should be given more weight than it is in political discussions. Your Maximum Leader knows that he was very provocative when he insisted that "Reason is a destructive faculty (outside of scientific or mathematical discussions)." But, it is. (At least from a societal viewpoint.) Regardless... Professor Burgess-Jackson, when the MWO comes, you will be well treated by your Maximum Leader.

Update: Your Maximum Leader was reading over the Volokh Conspiracy blog a moment ago and found this. He brings it to your attention as an indication of where a noted legal scholar thinks reason could take the law in Massachusetts.

And while your Maximum Leader is talking about (to?) his Minister of Agriculture... Here is an article that he might find interesting... Your Maximum Leader doesn't find sushi served in this style controversial at all. (Provided basic hygenic precautions are followed.)

Carry on.

Opus is Back!

The most famous penguin in the world is returning! I'm feeling the same sense of giddy optimism that I felt when I was awaiting the release of "the Phantom Menace"....wait, that's not a good thing.

For what it's worth, I'm hoping that Breathed returns to some good, old fasioned, political satire.

See the BH's page for some comics as well. E-mail him and urge him to continue drawing. Stalk him and demand that he use his artistic power for the debasement of the establishment. Ask him if he still has that Hamlet parody he wrote in 12th grade AP English. And while we're on the subject, whatever happened to Super Herman?

November 19, 2003

More bloggy goodness...

Greetings loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader finds himself unable to concentrate on other things, and as such is resorting to blogging to clear his mind. No telling where this "type" of therapy might take him...

Your Maximum Leader must apologize for spelling errors in the blog. The errors upset his sensibilities greatly. To explain how these problems occur, he sometimes runs the post through the spell checker provided by blogger, but that never seems to work correctly. Oftentimes he is rushing to blog in between meetings with Henchmen, or the Trilateral Commission, his IM'ing sessions with the Pope, and his daily To-do list for the World Bank. Sometimes your Maximum Leader just doesn't have the time to properly revise and edit his remarks.

And now a little movie dialogue:

Trooper: Let me see your identification.

Amidala: You don't need to see his identification.

Trooper: We don't need to see his identification.

Amidala: These aren't the nipples you are looking for.

Trooper: These aren't the nipples we are looking for.

Amidala: He can go about his business.

Trooper: You can go about your business.

Amidala: Move along.

Trooper: Move along... Hey what is that funny feeling in my pants?

More proof that doing to excess can kill you.

"W'haes a wee Dutch girlie like ye doin' dressed up like a Scottish lass? Aye! I take bak the wee bit."

What is going on? Eminem a racist? Michael Jackson a pedophile? Who'da thunk it. Want to know what else the police found during their search of the Neverland Ranch? Click here. And as an aside to that last point. What idiot parent lets his kid SLEEP OVER at Michael "I like the little boys" Jackson's place? Do you just want your boy to be buggered? Do you think being sodomized by Michael Jackson would help the kid? Some people just need to be dragged out and shot.

After reflecting on that last bit. Your Maximum Leader does want to honestly say that while he is not a homosexual, he doesn't object to what two grown mature people do with each other in private. As readers of this space might remember, there was a bit of a debate going on homosexual marriage here a while ago. While your Maximum Leader's position has not changed on that point, it is once again in the news. As you have no doubt read the Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that homosexual marriage is legal. While dismayed by this decision, a common theme comes up in the commentary on this subject. There is no logical reason why homosexuals shouldn't be married. And since judges like to think that the law is logical and rational, there is no reason to stop it. Your Maximum Leader agrees, there is no logical reason why (in a secular society) one should ban or otherwise prohibit homosexual marriage. But that doesn't mean that there is not a cultural reason to continue the ban. Your Maximum Leader recognizes that he is (most likely) on the loosing end of this argument. But he still disagrees. He found himself listening to Mass. Governor Mitt Romney this morning on the Today show and laughed as he heard the Governor say that a Constitutional Amendment to the Mass. Constitution would overturn the court decision. It will never happen. The idea that has some legs is the idea of a civil union. While your Maximum Leader is not terribly fond of civil unions either, he doesn't see why that vehicle could be used to effect the end that homosexuals want. He supposes that any two adult people could enter into a civil union. But marriage, your Maximum Leader firmly believes, is still rooted in a religious context and as such should not be extended to a homosexual couple.

Keyshawn Johnson sits out the season. Your Maximum Leader says "Go John Gruden! Show the whiny bitch the door."

And finally, President Bush gives a good speech at the Guildhall in London.

Well it looks like this blog started light-hearted, but then got serious. Humm... On that note! Remember the holidays are coming. Don't you need to get some Maximum Leader apparel? Sure you do. It is cold outside. How about a sweatshirt? It is warm and cozy by the fire. How about some boxers, or a thong to go with your T-shirt or Camisole! Your Maximum Leader knows that many of you are not reading this space for shameless commercial promotions. But CafePress just sent your Maximum Leader a message exhorting him to upgrade his commerce site with personalized photos. With that in mind, here is a thought for the female readers. (And female readers only.) If you purchase some Maximum Leader apparel, and send him a photo of you in that apparel; your Maximum Leader will refund you the cost of the item (plus shipping) you purchased. This offer only good on purchases made through December 19, 2003.

Carry on.