March 31, 2005

A Regency In Monaco

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader reads on the news wires that Prince Albert is assuming the duties of Regent for his father, Prince Ranier III of Monaco.

This must mean that Prince Ranier is not doing well at all. Your Maximum Leader - a monarchist at heart - will keep the Prince in his thoughts.

You know something my minions... Being Prince of Monaco doesn't seem to be a bad gig. Frankly, if your Maximum Leader's sights weren't set a little higher (it is the Mike WORLD Order after all) he doesn't think he'd mind being the pseudo-benevolent autocrat of a tiny European or tropically located nation-lette. A small island to rule... A few square miles of prime beach-front nation-dom... The ancient and historic enclave in a major city... Or even a free and independent city-state...

No not a bad gig at all...

Indeed. Perhaps your Maximum Leader should find some obsure claim in his ancestry to be the last Paleologus alive and claim the throne of Byzantium. (Highly unlikely as his ancestry is actually Anglo-Scottish... But Anna Anderson somehow made it stick for years.) Hell, your Maximum Leader bets that with enough cajoling he could convince the Turks and the EU to allow him to set up Istanbul/Constantinople/Byzantium as his own little Empire. He'd declare himself Emperor Michael IX. Sure he'd have to become an Orthodox Christian and all - but, like the Stuarts and their closet Catholicism, it would be a small price to pay for the throne. He might also have to learn Turkish and Greek. Humm... That might complicate matters somewhat...

Carry on.

Come To The Dark Side

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader hasn't seen these in stores yet. But he will pick up some "Darth Mix" M&M's as soon as he does.

Carry on.

Terry Schiavo - RIP

Greetings, loyal minions.

Terry Schiavo has died.

May she rest in peace. And may God have mercy on us all.

Carry on.

It Was A Very Good Year

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader doffs his bejeweled floppy hat in the direction of the crack young staff (let's call him "Chip") at the Hatemongers Quarterly. Today, is their one year anniversary.

Your Maximum Leader hopes that the crack young staff has a baccinalian fest of epic proportions tonight. Perhaps they could have a themed party? A theme like "Being Snarky while Civilization Burns."

And you know... The crack young staff says that they "started ugly" and "stayed ugly." Actually, the hate is, well, beautiful.

Carry on.

Morpeth Mansions.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, a lover of all things Churchill, was interested to read this blog entry at BookofJoe concerning the impending sale of Winston Churchill's flat at Morpeth Mansions.

Your Maximum Leader would have been more interested if the interior hadn't been redecorated.

Carry on.

Giada De Laurentiis

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, as you may have guessed, loves food. He loves the eating of food, the preparing of food, and the presentation of food. He loves watching people cook. He loves to think about cooking. He loves understanding what is happening chemcially during cooking.

With all these loves, you can reasonably assume a few things.

1) Your Maximum Leader watches quite a lot of programming on the Food Network.

2) Your Maximum Leader is too lazy to participate in the Carnival of the Recipes. (Also, your Maximum Leader doesn't always follow a recipe. He doesn't always measure things out. He "measures" many ingredients by sight, texture, or smell.)

3) Your Maximum Leader still owes Brian a review of his recipe.

Okay... Perhaps you couldn't assume (or even infer) all those things...


Today while looking over some software at Amazon, the good minders of that site suggested that your Maximum Leader rush out to purchase Giada De Laurentiis' book "Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes."

Now. Your Maximum Leader does enjoy watching Everyday Italian on Food Network. He has even made a few dishes that Giada has featured on her show. They are not bad. And on the balance, he thinks that if you don't have your head around basic southern italian cooking; you would pick up some easy to follow tips from watching Giada. (There is one negative comment your Maximum Leader will make about this program. Not everyone has access to a good Italian Butcher or Cheese Monger. That can often put the kibbash on some items Giada would have you do.)

But, of course, your Maximum Leader isn't just hear to regale you with tales of TV. He is here to pass judgement on Ms. De Laurentiis' physical appearance.

How shallow of him.

Allow him to enter into evidence the following photos. Here. And here (scroll down). (Also check out the cover of the book at Amazon.)

First item. It is incredible how much of a resemblance Giada has to Natalie Portman. (Indeed here is a site saying the two - Giada and Natalie - will be morphing together.)

Second item. If your Maximum Leader were to meet Giada in person he thinks that he would find her very "stringy" and unhealthy looking. Her arms just look like skin and bone. Not good.

Third item. Your Maximum Leader wonders if her boobs are real. They seem so large compared to the rest of her. (Which as previously mentioned, has no fat.)

Well, your Maximum Leader will continue to watch Giada's show. But he wishes she would eat a little more.

Carry on.

March 30, 2005

Ptolemy vs Hipparchus: Smackdown!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader loves it when some smart fellow comes along and looks at something in a new way and has an epiphany. Of course, oftentimes these people have some compulsive or neurotic aspects to their personality as well, but that just makes them more interesting.

Well, your Maximum Leader was captivated by a story from the LA Times today. It is out on the wire too. It is: Ptolemy Tilted Off His Axis.

The name Hipparchus sounded familiar to your Maximum Leader, but he wouldn't have placed it without the short explanation in the piece. But what a facinating article. He hopes that some longer peice will appear in either Smithsonian or National Geographic (to which he subscribes). Go and read about how a modern astronomer has used a Roman statue to confirm an ancient star map. One thought lost in the burning of the Library of Alexandria. (Thanks Saint Cyril!)

As an interesting aside... If you go and visit the Hoover Dam, you will see a large statue on the Arizona side (he believes). It is commemerating the dedication and opening of the dam. The sculptor who made the peice carved the exact position of the stars in the night sky on the day of the dedication into the statue. He did this to assure that one day, if no one could read the inscription on the statue, they could use the position of the stars to date the dam.

Sort of an interesting little bit of serindipity.

Carry on.

Virginia Leads The Nation!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leaders sees that his fellow citizens of the great Commonwealth of Virginia are "growing" at a faster rate than any other Americans. What does he mean by "growing?" Why growing obese of course.

Now your Maximum Leader admits he has some "love handles." But he doesn't believe he qualifies as "obese" by generally accepted medical guidelines. He has held his 6'3" frame at about 16.78 stone for quite a while now. So he could stand to lose a stone or a stone and a half.

Not sure of what a stone is? Check out this great site discussing units of measurement.

Anyho... Your Maximum Leader has noticed a great many of his fellow Virginians are hauling heavier loads than they should... We should all eat better and exercise more.

Carry on.

Oh My!

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has had dining experiences that were diminshed, or outright ruined, by the behaviour of the other clientele in a restaurant. (And frankly, he has probably caused others to say the same once or twice.) But to read the lastest from the crack young staff at The Hatemonger's Quarterly makes one appreciate staying home.

Carry on.

Link Dump From the Wire Services

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader, due to time contraints and family commitments, wasn't able to blog as he would have liked yesterday. So here are some items off the news wire that he wanted to comment upon.

First off. Korean Bullfighting? What the hell? No matadors. Just angry bulls going at it? In a country with limited grazing space and thus small cattle herds this seems odd. Your Maximum Leader supposes it would be a way of disposing of excess bulls. But in another way it just seems like a glorified cock-fight. Perhaps some of our Korean readers (or Korea-based readers) could comment on this "pastime."

It was first done in California. Now Oregon is up. Pretty soon it will be New York. About what is your Maximum Leader speaking... Outlawing traditional methods of making Foie Gras. Yes, yes. Your Maximum Leader knows that many people think that sticking a goose in a small box and force feeding it until it's liver swells up, then killing the goose, extracting the liver, and curing it in wine/brandy/other tasty alcohol is cruel - but it makes for mighty good eatin'. Indeed, your Maximum Leader agrees to an extent that the treatment is unseemly. But in order for it to be cruel your Maximum Leader would have to ascribe some attributes of a moral agent to the goose. And he is, frankly, unwilling to do so. Perhaps the Smallholder should investigate becoming a premier supplier of foie gras to the finer restaurants of the mid-atlantic region. Since it is only a matter of time before the PETA people start working on the New York Legislature. (BTW, New York farms are the largest producers of US foie gras.) Your Maximum Leader doesn't want to become dependent on French geese livers...

A recent poll showed that most Harvard students are unhappy. This saddens your Maximum Leader. Perhaps they would feel better if they went to Yale? Or maybe Dupont?

And finally, your Maximum Leader sees that some of the western counties of Ireland have decided to remove the English language from road signs and make their roadside navigational aids Gaelic only. In most cases your Maximum Leader is all for native languages. And he supposes he is in this case as well. It just seems as though it is something of a scam. A scam to increase the number of "native guides" for hapless English speakers from other parts of the anglophone world. And, as you might imagine, a scam by map makers to make old maps obsolete and require you to buy new ones in Gaelic AND English. (Or even worse, require that you have two maps - and compare them!)

Carry on.

March 29, 2005

More Racing Towards The Finish Line

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees on the news wires that Jerry Falwell is in critical condition at the Lynchburg (VA) General Hospital.

Do we have to add another person in our race to the finish line?

Your Maximum Leader doesn't wish ill upon Mr. Falwell, but if he is quite bad off he might suggest it would be better to finish before the Pope. When the Pope finishes the race the bar may very well be raised for others...

And sadly, it appears as though celebrity lawyer Johnnie Cochran has finished the race. To the surprise of many, your Maximum Leader has always respected Johnnie Cochran. Sure he played the race card with such frequency as to be sometimes laughable, but you can't win all the cases he did with the race card alone. He was a talented lawyer, and by all accounts a gentleman. While your Maximum Leader doubts that he and Mr. Cochran would have agreed on many things, that doesn't preclude your Maximum Leader from giving credit where it was due. Requiscat en pace, Johnnie Cochran.

Carry on.

The Jane Wiedlin Show

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was out reading his daily blog reads and he discovered a lovely little gem from Jeff at Beautiful Atrocities. It is The Jane Wiedlin Story.

Your Maximum Leader must make a confession. He LOVES the Go-Go's. He has the "Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's." And he has even played it recently, much to the dismay of Villainette Number One. You see, in the eyes of Villainette Number One, the only person ever to have sung "Our Lips Are Sealed" is Hilllary Duff. Upon hearing the robust Belinda Carlisle sing the song Villainette Number One declared, "She is okay. But Hillary is much better. Plus, she has her own show on Disney. I've never heard of that other girl."

Anyho... Go read Jeff's post...

Then settle into your easy chair, turn "Surreal Life" on the TV. But mute the sound. Then put on your "Return to the Valley of the Go-Go's" CD and relax. That is good television.

Carry on.

March 28, 2005

Beauty, Eh?

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader doesn't wait for a moment of inspiration to write a blog post. He often just cranks something out for the sake of writing and the theraputic effect it has on his pysche.

Sometimes he feels inspired to comment, opine, or make witty observations about life.

Sometimes he is jealous of people who seem to write a great post. Take for example our friend Brian at Memento Moron and his wonderful post on the Blues.

As Browning wrote, "Gr-r-r-- you swine!" Okay, your Maximum Leader isn't really that jealous. But it does give him a reason to quote Browning...

Carry on.

UPDATE FROM YOUR MAXIMUM LEADER: Brian insists on giving credit where it is due. (Which is always a good policy.) His blues post was actually lifted from Wicked Thoughts. So your Maximum Leader directs his Browning-esque "Gr-r-r" towards Bussorah...

Racing Towards...

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was enjoying his Easter Lamb dinner yesterday with his immediate family and his wonderful in-laws. After the main meal was completed, and the children dismissed from the table, we all started to talk about "grown-up" stuff. Conversation meandered to the Schiavo situation, living wills, advanced medical directives, and medical powers of attorney.

Then the conversation stalled. It wasn't one of those awkward pauses in conversation such as one might have at a dinner party or a date. Just a pause in which no one at the table had anything to add. Since it was all family, this pause was used by most of us to take a drink or dab at some congealing gravy with a leftover forkfull of lamb.

At this point your Maximum Leader's sainted father-in-law said, "Well, I suppose the Pope and Prince Ranier are both racing for the finish line. Any guesses on who will make it first?" Well that just cracked up your Maximum Leader. "Racing towards the finish line." Very droll.

In case any of you are wondering, the consensus was that Prince Ranier would cross the finish line before the Holy Father. We thought this was a good thing too. You wouldn't want to have to convince Saint Peter that you were just as deserving as the Pope, assuming that the Pope went through the pearly gates first.

But Prince Ranier did not beat Paul Hester across the finish line.

Your Maximum Leader supposes that Paul Hester doesn't really count. Since he seems to have decided for himself when to cross the line.

Carry on.

An Open Letter

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has forgotten to check a special "spam" account he set up. You know the type. The account you have just in case you want to sign up for something on-line, but are afraid that the e-mail address you give will be broadcast to every semi-sentient spammer in the world. Well, your Maximum Leader hasn't checked his since he left for Vegas. He checked it today. And in response to some of what resided in that mailbox, he writes this open letter:

To: Melinda, Scott, Alberto, Armand, Clare, et. al.
From: Your Maximum Leader
Date: March 28, 2005
RE: Your recent message

Your Maximum Leader would like to thank each of you for your recent message. Although it is doubtful that we have ever met, your Maximum Leader is heartened to learn that he is among your "best and closest friends" - as your message points out. It is hard to find such subservient and obsequious minions as yourselves, he appreciates your dedication.

Additionally, your Maximum Leader thanks you for writing such a clear subject line to your message. He knew exactly what to expect when he read the words: "SEXUALLY EXPLICIT watch dumb european women work hard for cash." He appreciates your candor.

Feel free to e-mail your Maximum Leader any time with similarly labeled messages. So long as he knows what to expect from you before he opens your e-mail he is happy.


Your Maximum Leader
If only all spammers were so forthcoming in their messages.

Carry on.

Easter Dinner

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader apologizes for just up and leaving you all last week. He opted to stop blogging on Good Friday and cruise through the weekend without thinking of blog posts.

But here is a thought (and probably not an original one) that popped into his head yesterday while he ate his traditional roasted lamb dinner on Easter Sunday...

Jesus was the "Lamb of God." Many families eat lamb on Easter Sunday to celebrate the ressurection of Jesus.

Connection? Coincidence? Discuss amongst yourselves...

Carry on.

March 24, 2005

Tasteless Snarky Comment to Follow.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader reads on the news wire that: Guitarist Rod Price of Foghat Dies at 57.

Did he choke on his own vomit?

Just wondering. You know if it was someone else's vomit you wouldn't know. You can't very well dust vomit for fingerprints now can you?

Carry on.

Minion Mailbag: Terri Schiavo Edition.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has received quite a few e-mails on the recent spat of postings on the Schiavo situation. Most are unworthy of comment. (They are just filled with vitriol. Which your Maximum Leader admires generally; but of which he is tired now.) But of the ones he has received, there are a few that stand out. Allow your Maximum Leader to reproduce and comment upon them now. Here we go.

Minion Celeste writes:
My objection to removing the feeding tube from Terri Schiavo is that neurologists have not actually found the seat of consciousness. It actually isn't something that can be measured. They assume it is to do with cortical activity - but that is an assumption only.

As all sorts of animals right down the evolutionary scale appear to have some form of consciousness, it stands to reason that it is a very basic function, which would suggest that it is quite difficult to knock out. Often the medical profession, and science in general, is completely convinced of something, only to realise they were totally wrong.

For this reason alone, there may be some basic sort of self awareness in people in persistant vegetative states.

Then there is the argument of Peter Singer to justify abortions. His argument is that an unconscious being, or being of reduced consciousness, only has a right to life in so far as the relatives want it to live. In this case, Terri's parents want her to live. Therefore she has a right to life. (I don't know whether Professor Singer would agree with this analysis, but I do know that he and his siblings kept his mother alive after she fell into a coma following Alzheimers disease).

So, what's so wrong with keeping her alive? It doesn't make a shred of difference to her either way. Michael Schiavo in contrast, needs to move on and get on with his life.

If her parents did not want her to live, it would be a different story.

Is it just a resources issue?

I am at a loss to understand why people are so vehement that Mrs Schiavo's tube be removed.
Another minion, and frequent writer, "Powermfn" writes:
Graduate work in psych required me to dissect brains in the lab. Damned interesting! Not at all repulsive. Actually felt awe. Consequently, cannot jump in with the politicians (either on the Hill or in the pulpit) who are screeching that Terri Schiavo is being murdered by the courts. Have dropped the same subject on my own offspring from time to time: are you prepared to be the only one around to make a certain decision in regards to my life should it ever come to that? Who will pull the plug, especially if my own Living Will is ignored? And such documents, no matter how legal, have been ignored in the past.

One thing the Schindlers don't seem to have considered and I can't imagine why: should they actually get custody of the husk that used to be their daughter, what happens to her should she "survive" so long that they pre-decease her? Same question for her brother. What happens to your sister if she "outlives" you? She becomes the ward of the state and depending on what state she resides in at the time, that state can summarily pull the plug without anyone's permission or oversight.

What this country needs a a revision of the legal definition of brain dead to include persistent vegetative states. Just watch the rockets red glare from the pulpit when that happens

Another reader, Amy from Florida writes:
Please also note that Mr. Schiavo also has been pursuing extra-marital relationships both before and (roughly 2 years) after Terri's incident and now fathers two children with the woman he has cohabitated with for about a decade; Judge Greer prohibited the FL Dept. of Children & Families from postponing the feeding tube removal to review prior allegations of abuse and neglect; he has prevented the family from visiting Terri on several occasions and extended periods of time including the last time her feeding tube was removed; a board certified neurologist testified to Governor Jeb Bush this afternoon that Terri is not in a PVS in his medical opinion but he was not allowed to examine her medically; Terri has not received a neurological evaluation in over three years. Thank you.

This is a not very representative sample of messages your Maximum Leader has received. Of the roughly 50 e-mails he's received, these are the best of what he's read. (And people sometimes wonder why your Maximum Leader has mixed feelings on comments...)


Allow you Maximum Leader to say a few things here. His own feelings on this matter are that Michael Schiavo should have stepped aside years ago and let Terri's parents care for their daughter as they obviously want to.

He also thinks that withholding sustinance from Terri is a barbaric and uncivilized thing to do.

He doesn't consider himself vehement about removing Terri's feeding tube. Indeed, he is saddened that Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers couldn't come to some sort of agreement concerning Terri's treatment and continuted care.

What he is vehement about is how we must approach this case from the perspective of the law and courts which have to adjudicate situations where two interested parties disagree.

Your Maximum Leader will concede Celeste's point that we have not nailed down the seat of consciousness, in as much as we cannot point out a particular region or part of the brain and say, "There it is."

But we do know that damage to certain areas of the brain, there is a resultant loss of memory, change of personality, and change of behaviour.

That said, we also are pretty darned confident the "conciousness" is somehow associated with many areas of the "upper" brain. The area of the "lower brain" is where breathing, continued heart beat, and automatic functions seem to reside. It is this "lower" area Terri Schiavo's brain that is undamaged. The major lobes of her brain, as he understands it, have been decimated beyond hope of repair or recovery.

Because her brain is so badly damaged, she is unable to do much more than she is doing now. She breathes, her heart beats, and she can make some vocalizations that don't require more than forcing air out of her larynx. She, to the best of our knowledge, completely unaware of the world and unable to take a decision for herself.

In a situation where someone is in this state, another competent person must be appointed by an establish authority as guardian. That person, barring written instruction to the contrary, is the next of kin - a spouse, or in absence of a spouse a parent or sibling. Or another person appointed by the court.

Michael Schiavo was her guardian. She has also had a number of court appointed guardians. And the Schindler's were fine with this situation until Michael decided that Terri was never going to recover. That is where the courts got involved. And that is where we are now.

Does your Maximum Leader want to see Terri's body starved to death? No. It is a gruesome spectacle.

Would he prefer that the Schindler's be Terri's guardian and let them care for her as they obviously want to do? Sure.

But unfortunately all those things are outside the purview of the law in this case. The Schindler's have not been able to prove at any point that Terri has any mental capacity at all. Thus, all a court can do is appoint a guardian who is empowered to take decisions for her. That has happened. And the guardians (including Michael Schiavo) have all been of the same opinion for the past 8 years.

Excursus: Your Maximum Leader also concedes that Terri Schiavo has not had a comprehensive neurological examination in a while. (He sees different ranges of time - so he can't confidently quote one. But he'll concede it's been at least one year.) But he doubts that another examination would make any difference. Additionally, if the tube was reinserted, and Terri received new neurological examinations (which was the intent of the legislation passed by Congress), what then? What happens when a federal judge rules that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state and that the will of Michael Schiavo be carried out? Remember people, the standard here is not "beyond a reasonable doubt" as it is in a criminal proceeding. The standard in these cases is "clear and convincing." If a preponderance of medical experts find that Terri is in a PVS, then the feeding tube is removed again. To be explicitly clear here, the question is not if the Schindler's can find one or two experts who will certify that Terri has some level of conciousness. They need to find a slight majority of experts who will certify that Terri is not in a PVS. That is the standard that applies. So what happens if the tube was reinserted, she was examined, and the preponderance of evidence shows that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state? The tube comes out again - because the established decision-maker in this case is Michael Schiavo.

Admittedly, Michael Schiavo is not a sympathetic figure in the least. Everything that Amy has written appears to be factual. But no attempt to show that Michael has a conflict of interest has proved to be fruitful. Money (and he's been offered lots of it) isn't an issue. (And the Schindlers don't seem to have problems concerning funds for continued care.) Your Maximum Leader is convinced that Michael Schiavo is completely and totally earnest in his conviction that Terri would have wanted to die in this situation; and it is encumbent upon him to make sure her wishes are carried out.

Sensible people (compasionate people even) can (and many are) argue the merit of Michael's stance. But legally, Michael's opinion is the only one that has been found to matter.

All of the work by politicians and activists to overturn the law for the benefit of one person is nearly as disgusting a spectacle as Terri being starved. The law is pretty settled in the matter of custody of a mentally incapacitated person - as best I can tell. And all that is being overthrown in a rush of hysteria.

That is pretty much it. There is a very narrow focus to this argument - or rather there should be. The argument, from a public perspective, should be who is empowered to make the decision. The courts have ruled that Michael Schiavo is. It is his wishes that are being carried out.

Now your Maximum Leader wants to add one more thing. He doesn't believe that courts are perfect. They are just as falible as any of us. But the courts and the rule of law are really the foundation of our stable civilization. Judge Greer has made a few decisions concerning the access the Florida Department of Children and Families that are open to differing interpretations. But in all cases, his decisions have withstood appellate tests. This is not to say that you have to intellectually agree with them, but they are the decision. Your Maximum Leader thinks lots of court decisions are wrong-headed - but that doesn't change the fact that they are the law. He'd be happy to appoint less wrong-headed people to the bench. He'd be happy to support laws that might change the outcome of future situations. But new appointments and hastily constructed legislation rushed through Congress (which by the way is almost always bad) isn't going to change anything right now. And it isn't going to save what remains of Terri Schiavo's life.

I feel terrible for the Schindlers. I wish that Michael would have just left the picture a long time ago. But that didn't happen. This is the result.

Carry on.


67% of the American public believes that the Republicans are cynically manipulating the Schiavo case in a purely political ploy. That the Republican congressional leadership admitted as much in a strategy memo doesn't help their cause.

Many Republicans and conservatives do believe in the principle of federalism. The Analphilosopher and Annika are good examples. But for the vast majority of Americans (in both parties) the issue of states' rights and federal power is a sham.

A sham, pure and simple.

The "principle" of states' rights has rarely been a principled principle. Instead, throughout American history, it has been a justification for other goals or a simple stratagem to achieve those goals.

Northern states in the early national period were all for national power when it came to administering a protective tariff. But they embraced "states' rights" in opposition to Jefferson's embargo or Madison's war (Or Polk's for that matter).

The South wanted national power to be used to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law, overturn states' personal liberty laws, or the Dred Scott Decision. But they trotted out the states' rights theory to oppose the tariffs of '28 and '32, to protect slavery (and its expansion), and to justify secession.

The South also trotted out states' rights after Brown v. Board of education, conveniently forgetting its support of a national alcohol policy. But we all know what was at stake: They didn't want little Johnny going to school with black kids.

Today, pro-life advocates say they believe in states' rights, vociferously decrying the federal imposition of Roe v. Wade. They know that, absent federal control, many states would ban abortion outright. But once Roe is overturned and local prohibition is achieved, you know that they will begin calling for a national law outlawing abortion in the blue states. The pro-life people have a principled position: They believe abortion is murder. But their support of states' rights is tactical, not principled.

So, while the Christian Rights abandonment of their tactical acceptance of states' rights may be interesting, we ought not to be that surprised.

A more striking result of the Christian Right's ascendancy in conservative circles is the abandonment of the rule of law, as illustrated by DOMA and Terri's law.

When Congress passed the patently unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (knowingly so; why else would there be such a drive for an Amendment?), most Americans, in their bigotry against a tiny minority, weren't that alarmed. Although similarly motivated by the desire to impose a set of values on the nation, Terri's law may backfire, bringing home to the American people that the Nanny-state Republicans are willing to impose their own interpretation of scripture on EVERYONE.

The agonizing decision to allow a loved one to slip away is an experience that many Americans have had. More importantly, ALL Americans can imagine facing that situation themselves as their parents and/or spouses age. And we want our family's death experience to be a personal one.

Terri's law is not an abstract diminuation of someone else's rights.

The religious right, in the name of the absolute sanctity of all life, wants to tell us how to make decisions for our families. Normally, we could count on the constitutional protections offered by the court. But the Republicans in Congress have demonstrated that they do no respect the independence of the third branch of government. Like Jefferson's impeachment campaign, Jackson's defiance of Marshall, and FDR's attempt to pack the court, Terri's law, "de novo" clause and all, is an attempt to subordinate the judicial branch.

Checks and balances, my friends, are our most important check against tyranny.

Now, your humble Smallholder is not running for the hills and stocking up for my own personal Ruby Ridge. I have great faith in the democratic process. Now that the Christian Righties have unmasked themselves as a aspiring tyrants, I suspect Americans will punish them at the polls.

I also expect that conservatives who value individual liberty, smaller governments, and states' rights may begin to rethink their alliance with the Rick Santorums of the world.

The ironic thing, if an attenuation of Republican power occurs, is that that change will not be wrought by the persuasiveness of the Democratic Party, which seems mired in denial of the bankruptcy of its own stagnant ideology. The Republicans are committing suicide.

With Bill Frist leading the charge, it will be physician-assisted suicide.

UPDATE FROM YOUR MAXIMUM LEADER: Your Maximum Leader believes that the "strategery memo" to which the Smallholder is referring is being debunked on the news (Fox and CNN) as a fake. But that is a developing story. And while the American people see partisan manoeuvering for what it is, a sizable number of Americans also don't want to see Terri Schiavo die. If the Smallholder is suggesting that the Terri Schiavo decision is going to do long-term harm to the Republican party, he ought to lay off the hard cider.

Michael Schiavo Gives Up on Wife, Wants to Move On

BEFORE I START... can someone pleas tell me the secret to using apostrophes and periods in a post without freaking out the HTML shit???? I get all this weird stuff that I have to go back and edit and it looks fine in the preview but when it gets published its whacked.

I think that this is what its really about. Most of the Ministers here at Nakedvilliany are parents. And with all the legal mumbo-jumbo, rights, and postulating I think we are missing the big picture here.

The way the parents of Terri see it is that if there is life in there daughter there is still hope. Hope for recovery, cure, or whatever. Besides, if the left gets its way with stem cell research, why is there no hope?

But if the tube is not inserted and the body dies, ALL hope is gone for her in this life.

I personally, would not want to 'live' as a vegetable. I would have given up on hope for MYSELF years ago if I was Terri. It seems to me that Michael Schiavo has given up as well and needs to move on with his life. Maybe hook up with that little cutie at the grocery store he has had his eyes on for the last 10 years (or whatever).

But I am glad to know that Terri's Mom and Dad have NOT given up on their daughter. Because, as quick to pull the plug on myself as I am (if I were in Terri's shoes) I would not be able to do it for my daughter (Heather: almost 3) or son (Hugh: 2 months). I would step in front of a train, car, bullet, etc to save them, so why would I pull the plug or take out the tube to kill them... even if they were in a vegetative state. Because I would still have hope for them to live or recover or have some miracle bring them back.

Now maybe the other Ministers here are more INTJ types that can calculate the odds and spout law and personal rights knowledge and be able to take the tube out of their own children but I am certainly not in that camp.

Since she apparently can't feel pain or have any idea what is going on with her, why not give her and her parents hope? Obviously, Michael can't be THAT concerned with what his wife wishes if she has no thoughts or feelings now.

Is it any less cruel to keep her alive than it would be to remove the apparatus that keeps her alive? If yes, how so? If she doesn't meet any of your requirements of being a human being than why not just let her continue in the state she is in?

Obviously, her folks don't mind the expense of keeping her alive and her husband has said that it is not about money as well.

Also, while we are healthy and have all of our mental faculties we might say a lot of things like, "I wouldn't want to live if I was _____". I don't think that I want live to be old and feeble either, but it is the rare senior citizen that is really done with life when they hit their 70s and 80s and truly wants to die (even if they are old and feeble).

So... I feel it is a shame that M Schiavo has given up, but for others who love her dearly, and those that respect the spark of life, no matter how faint, don't take our hope away.

Back to the trenches

March 23, 2005

Cool Barns

My father and I built the Sweet Seasons Farm calf barn together out of recycled materials. I think it is pretty cool, particularly considering that it was built by rank amateurs. Here is a guy who loves to build barns and actually has some skill.

Even if you aren't one of our readers who like farm posts, I encourage you to click through and enjoy the pictures.

Grafting Giddiness Minion Mailbag

Responses to the Grafting Giddiness post keep coming. The Maximum Leader forwarded some links from one minion.

I enjoyed the Brownsnout blog tremendously. We need to have a "farm" section of the blogroll. I'd set it up myself, but the Maximum Leader keeps all the reigns of power in his own sweaty palms (patience, minions, his food taster can't catch everything...)

Foreign Minister, I highly commend the Brownsnout site for your reading enjoyment.

Feeding the Maw of Media Frenzy

Those advocating prolonging Terri's twilight existence seem to be operating using a set of facts that are not verifiable in nonbiased documents.

I have been unable to find any court instances referencing Michael's alleged mistreatment of Terri. The charge that he is seeking to kill her before evidence of his abuse is commonly repeated (wanting a cremation = coverup!), the charge that he asked nurses if "the bitch is dead yet" is often raised. But all the court rulings say that both Michael and the Schindlers have exhibited nothing but care for Terri. I would like to see hard evidence to support those claims.

I have also been guilty of attributing malignant designs to Michael. I confess that I accepted many of the undocumented accusations as having some reality. But non-partisan sites never make any such claims. Terri's family, which maintains the Terri's fight website, does not make any of those claims in a forum in which they might be charged with libel. The harshest thing they officially say is that "Michael has moved on with his life." Since any evidence of Michael's nefariousness would buttress their case, the conspicuous absence of such evidence is telling, ne c'est pas?

The "Keep Terri Alive" crowd often claims that she has never had a guardian. She, in fact has. Here is the report of the court-appointed guardian, posted at National Review. Interestingly, while the guardian finds (as has everyone else) that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state with no awareness and that the folks who say otherwise have no scientific basis for their spurious claim (note: even the Schindlers did not challenge this diagnosis until recently), he does not say she should necessarily be disconnected.

And this is what the real argument boils down to: does cognitive functioning matter? Does it define a human being? The Schindlers, when discussing the case with the guardian, have said that there are NO circumstances in which they would every stop prolonging any quality of life.

We should stop pretending this case is about Terri's cognitive ability. The case is really about whether any glimmer of physical existence, no matter how blind and unconscious, should be preserved indefinitely.

Descartes, as Terri's guardian notes, would not have understood this American controversy. He would have applied the inverse of his famous phrase: I think, therefore I am.

Cool... Suborbital Guided Bombs...

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader was just over at the Ministry of Minor Perfidy and saw this very cool little piece.

Space bombs. Very cool. But it does make you wonder about what would happen if they just started dropping from the sky...

Carry on.

March 22, 2005

More On Terri Schiavo's Case.

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that the Smallholder has declared this blog to be all Schiavo all the time. And since your Maximum Leader does have a few things to say on this subject, he will continue with this theme.

In case you are living under a rock or just ignoring the news, a Federal Judge (empowered by the new - and bad - law) has denied the Schindler's request to reinsert Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. They are appealing the decision.

Your Maximum Leader, up to this point, hasn't said much on this case. Indeed, he finds himself in nearly total agreement with his good friend the Smallholder on this.

Let us revisit the tragic facts here. Terri Schiavo had an attack related to an eating disorder. She recieved incorrect or otherwise bad care from doctors immediately after the attack. The result of the attack and subsequent mistreatment was that many portions of Terri's brain were liquified. For 7 years Michael Schiavo and Terri's parents, the Schindlers, worked with many different doctors and specialists to try and treat Terri's condition. All attempts failed. After 7 years of trying, Michael Schiavo determined that Terri's feeding tubes should be removed, and action that would result in Terri's death. (He did this in the absence of some legal document stating the same.) The Schindler's objected and have been fighting the action in court for 8 years or so. In the intervening 8 years, Michael Schiavo has moved on, started a new family - while not divorcing Terri - and has fought to remove the feeding tubes.

What is in dispute here? From a legal perspective few items are in dispute. First is if Terri would have wanted to "live" in her current condition. Second is if Terri's due process rights have been denied to her. Basically that is it. Those are the two legal issues here. And frankly, legal issues are all that we are left with in this case.

Allow your Maximum Leader to state a few opinions of his own on this. First off, insofar as your Maximum Leader is concerned Terri Schiavo died 15 years ago. Large portions of her brain have been liquified. No doctor has ever disputed this point. Nothing will regrow brain tissue. Nothing! The video distributed by her family, as well as many stories about her vocalizing sounds ultimately mean nothing. The human brain is as fragile as the rest of the body is strong. What we have in this case is, unfortunately, a body that is kept going by the autonomic nervous system of the brain. It is capable of making vocalizations. It is capable of some muscle movement. It may make some basic responses to outside stimuli (like sounds and light). But that is it. No amount of therapy, medicine, or treatment will change any of this.

Legally speaking, when you have a person in this condition, the next of kin is responsible for taking decisions concerning the person's care - or withdrawl of care. In this case the legally competent person to make that determination was Michael Schiavo.

It is clear that when this case began, Michael Schiavo had the legal right to do what he has sought to do - remove the feeding tubes and starve Terri's body to death. When the Schindler's first objected to this course of action, hearings were heard and a judge adjudicated according to established case law and tradition that Michael's wishes were those that would prevail.

That is it from a legal perspective. Michael Schiavo had the legal authority to take a decision. He took a decision. The Schindler's objected. A court heard the evidence. The court examined the records. And the court decided the case according to the law and the Constitution.

Your Maximum Leader will go so far as to say that this case can be heard by any in the land, and the same decision will be reached.

What makes this case hard are the other facts. The fact that now Michael Schiavo has moved on, had kids with another woman, and generally seems to be an unreasoning asshole. The fact that the Schindler's still hold out false hope. And the fact that Terri Schiavo doesn't look dead.

Your Maximum Leader will grant anyone that Michael Schiavo appears to be a bastard of the first rank. But that doesn't matter from a legal perspective. Even the rankest bastards are entitled to equal justice under the law.

Your Maximum Leader must also confess that he feels pity for the Schindlers. Pity that they engage in, what the Smallholder has called, "magical thinking." Nothing anyone can do now will restore Terri's liquified brain. Nothing anyone can even speculate about doing will restore Terri's liquifed brain. The parents want to keep the husk of their daughter alive because they want to believe that somehow something will happen to change the facts.

Excursus: Your Maximum Leader is familiar with the basic breakdown here between Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers. It is a breakdown that could have occured in his own family. You see... Your Maximum Leader's venerated mother was drafting her Advanced Medical Directive (Living Will) and designated your Maximum Leader as the person with authority. She chose to bypass your Maximum Leader's sainted father. This caused a little bit of surprise when it was revealed to your Maximum Leader in the lawyer's office. He specifically asked why his dad was not to have the legal authority over his mother should an Advanced Medical Directive be required. His mother spoke bluntly to your Maximum Leader. She said, "Your father believes that where there is breath there is life. You know that isn't the case. He can't pull my plug. You can. And I want you to if it comes down to it."

Excursus Pt 2: Your Maximum Leader had a difficult converstation with Mrs. Villain on this same subject. (That is Advanced Medical Directives.) When his attorney was drafting the documents for your Maximum Leader; Mrs Villain confessed that she wasn't sure she could pull the plug on your Maximum Leader. We discussed the possibilities over and over again. Finally your Maximum Leader just told Mrs Villain that to avoid the pain and anguish being put on her shoulders - he would designate someone else (either the Big Hominid, Smallholder, or AirMarshal). Indeed a first draft was done naming people other than Mrs. Villain. But in the end, she determined that she could carry out my wishes - should it ever come to that.

And your Maximum Leader will admit that when he sees the video of Terri, he finds it hard to believe that so much of her brain could be liquified. But that is the fact. Other bloggers have mentioned that Terri hasn't had a CT scan, or MRI on her brain. What would they show that wouldn't be shown on the X-rays which have been taken? You would see the missing parts of Terri's brain in glowing colour?

It is tragic. It is heartbreaking. And is it all repulsive. Starving a body to death. That is horrifying. Absolutely horrifying. But that is the only recourse in this case. Administering life-terminating drugs is a crime. So we are left with a barbaric way to go.

Your Maximum Leader is very sad that it has come to this. But the situation is what it is. You have a man who will not give up his position for anything. And a family who will not give up in their attempts to stop him. This is a family dispute gone horribly horribly wrong. One wishes that Michael Schiavo would just up and leave. That he would just give in, but he will not. 8 years should have proven that to everyone.

But that said, it is not appropriate for Congress to intervene in these affairs. The special session of Congress, the actions of many Representatives and Senators on both sides of the asile, they are all replusive. This is not a case where the Federal Government has any standing. It is horrifying to thing that there is serious business before the Congress, but it is not getting done so that a debate that is more about grandstanding than policy can occur. It goes against every principle your Maximum Leader wants his elected representatives to live up to.

So. Where do we stand now? The courts will not reverse themselves. Politicans are grandstanding. Everyone is leaping to conclusions based on emotional hype - not the law, the facts, or anything else it seems. And the body that was once Terri Schiavo keeps dying slowly from starvation.

It is a horrible spectacle. And it is sickening.

Carry on.

March 21, 2005

Nakedvillainy: Now All Schiavo All the Time

Eugene Volokh's law blog has a lively discussion going on in its comments thread about the Schiavo law. Check it out.

Plunge writes:

"There's no need to go digging for a fundamental right to food and water (although I assume some enterprising jurist could find it as an emination formed by penubras). This is one of the rights that's actually in the text: the right to due process before someone's life can be taken." AK, I'm sorry, but this is not a death penalty case, and no court is going to treat it as such. Legally, Terri Schiavo is not being put to death by the state, she is by proxy refusing the use of artificial life support from _doctors_ as defined in Florida law. The real problem here is that, as I don't think a lot of people recongize, this is a very common and well established and really very uncontroversial process. Refusal of care, whether directly or by proxy, is not considered murder or euthanasia. The only issue any court is going to review, de novo or not, is whether Terri really would have wanted to be maintained in this state in the way that the original court found that she would not. Given that a state appeals court affirmed the original decision, saying that it passed even the "err on the side of life" test, I think arguments for putting the tube back in are going to have to be pretty inventive. "In line with TM Lutas' post, which I think raises good points, would medical advancements during the past 15 years be relevant in a de novo review? I understand that there are affidavits of medical experts that have been submitted by the parents stating that incomplete medical testing was done (by today's medical standards) in diagnosing Terri as in a persistent vegetative state." To be honest, after reviewing these affidavits, I can see why no court takes them seriously. Almost all are based purely on viewing the video clips being passed around by the family, and thus they speak in ignorance of her actual clinical findings. There have been no medical advances in the last 15 years that can regrow missing brain tissue, and none of the experts even mention or address that matter. Most seem to think she's in a sort of coma or minor stroke situation. She is not. She is so clearly missing her cerebral cortex that it shows up on a CT. No serious doctor can have both looked at that CT, appreciated what it means, and then turn around and suggest that she might be improved by speech therapy or acupuncture: which is exactly what these cited experts do. For instance: the speech centers of her brain aren't just damaged, they are completely missing! Asking for finer detail and diagnosis is medically absurd at this point. Every doctor I've talked to that's actually looked at the clinical findings and read the reports of her various examinations agrees that she is classic PVS (motions and vocalizations and all: those are not uncommon in PVS) and that there is no hope of recovery. This is not like a coma, or stroke damage. The only serious issue here was whether the original court correctly inferred her wishes from the several testimonies and consideration of her known values and personality."

Well, The Plan Was...

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader had planned to write a post or two today... But in light of the rash of postings by the good Smallholder, your Maximum Leader has decided to save his "content" for tomorrow.

Lest you all get too much of a good thing. And as we all know, too much of a good thing can kill ya.

Carry on.

If I Had A Million Dollars

The good foreign minister and I share a love for cider presses. I have planted a pretty good sized apple orchard. Some of the varieties were chosen specifically for their cider-making potential.

When they come into production, I will borrow the neighbor's press. I'll probably never be able to afford one of my own - they can get quite pricey.

But if I had a million dollars?

I would build a two story frame into the hillside. The top level, accessible from the uphill side, would contain grape pressing and cider making equipment. I would situate them so that the pressed juice could flow by gravity into oak barrels on the lower level. The lower level, almost entirely underground, would stay at around 55 degrees year round - the right temperature for fermentation.

In the front half of the building, I'd keep syrup making supplies so that I could carry them out to the firepit (which I already have) when I was boiling down sugar maple sap. The giant cauldron could also be used to make apple butter. Mmmmm.

I would also put in a still. Of course, since fermenting cider into brandy is illegal, the still would be for "display purposes only."

Obligations to the Dead

The United States Military does not leave its bodies behind.

This is criminally stupid.

I clearly remember an ROTC military ethics class in which I got into an extended dispute with the instructor.

The correct answer for the "tactical problem" was to send soldiers into enemy fire to recover the body of the point man prior to a withdrawal.

I explained that I would order my men to withdraw from the kill zone and to leave the corpse behind. I was not going to risk the lives - Private Snuffy was dead and his family would have to grieve, with or without the shell.

The instructor railed about honor and dignity. I stood fast. Obligations are for the living. I was not about to write a family and tell them that they had to grieve too - all because I sent Private Smith out to grab a body.

Heh. I was never very good at accepting asinine policy.

Michael Schiavo

The living Schiavo has come in for a fair amount of calumny.

People hate him with an intense, visceral passion.

Why does he persist in his chosen course?

Many claim that he is just interested in the money. He's a murderer for cash, the Schindler camp proclaims to the world.

But their are a few problems.

By the Schindlers' own admission at, Michael offered to give his inheritance to charity if they allowed his wife to die.

The inheritance now stands at less than $50,000.

A businessmen offered Michael ONE MILLION dollars to turn custody over to the parents. Michael refused.

So it is not money.

Michael must be motivated to carry out what he believes his wife's wishes to be. And he has endured a tremendous amount of libelous abuse in the process.

Perhaps he should stop.

Allowing Terri's parents to take over guardianship will not influence him in any appreciable economic way. In fact, it might allow him to move on with his life and turn his efforts to remunerative pursuits.

If we accept that his attempt to withhold food is an attempt to carry out Terri's wishes, perhaps he should consider this: She is already dead and we have no obligations to the dead*.

Terri's frontal cortex is gone. She is incapable of feeling pain. Can it make any moral difference if her shell continues to breathe for decades? One would think that Terri, aside from being outraged at her parents' actions, when faced with those actions and their implacable determination to deny the obvious, that she would want Michael to get on with his life.

Turning Terri's shell over to the parents ends the controversy with no harm to Terri and an end to the litigation to all involved. It sounds like a win-win.

* See upcoming post.

Monty Python on the Iraqi "Insurgents"

COMMANDO XERXES: What exactly are the demands?

REG: We're giving Pilate two days to dismantle the entire apparatus of the Roman Imperialist State, and if he doesn't agree immediately, we execute her.

MATTHIAS: Cut her head off?

FRANCIS: Cut all her bits off. Send 'em back on the hour every hour. Show them we're not to be trifled with.

REG: And of course, we point out that they bear full responsibility when we chop her up, and that we shall not submit to blackmail!

COMMANDOS: No blackmail!

REG: They've bled us white, the bastards. They've taken everything we had, and not just from us, from our fathers, and from our fathers' fathers.

LORETTA: And from our fathers' fathers' fathers.

REG: Yeah.

LORETTA: And from our fathers' fathers' fathers' fathers.

REG: Yeah. All right, Stan. Don't labour the point. And what have they ever given us in return?!

XERXES: The aquaduct?

REG: What?

XERXES: The aquaduct

REG: Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that's true. Yeah.

COMMANDO #3: And the sanitation.

LORETTA: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like?

REG: Yeah. All right. I'll grant you the aqueduct and the sanitation are two things that the Romans have done.

MATTHIAS: And the roads.

REG: Well, yeah. Obviously the roads. I mean, the roads go without saying, don't they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads--

COMMANDO: Irrigation.

XERXES: Medicine.

COMMANDOS: Huh? Heh? Huh...

COMMANDO #2: Education.


REG: Yeah, yeah. All right. Fair enough.

COMMANDO #1: And the wine.

COMMANDOS: Oh, yes. Yeah...

FRANCIS: Yeah. Yeah, that's something we'd really miss, Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.

COMMANDO: Public baths.

LORETTA: And it's safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.

FRANCIS: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let's face it. They're the only ones who could in a place like this.

COMMANDOS: Hehh, heh. Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh.

REG: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

XERXES: Brought peace.

Overdue Feedback

There have been several comments/posts that I have left hanging.

Minion S asked the Maximum Leader about tax policy.

The Maximum Leader has it partially correct. As usual. The part about which his opinion overlaps with mine.

Tax cuts for the wealthy can lead to long-term economic growth by generating additional investment. However, if the tax and economic scales are tipped too far towards the Thurston Howell Yacht Club, the economic growth will fail to materialize because of a reduction of consumer demand.

Tax cuts for the middle class and lower class are generally acknowledged (even by the Great Guru Greenspan) to generate a short-term boost to the economy because common folks are more likely to go spend their tax refund on a new computer or a nice vacation. Some might argue that trickle-up works better than trickle down - the rich will benefit in the long term because the new consumer demand will fuel the expansion of business and drive job creation.

You can guess where your progressive Smallholder comes down: Middle-class and lower-class tax cuts give a more immediate boost to a lagging economy AND also drive long term growth.

A post for a later date will be a discussion of how discussions of tax policy and the Laffer curve often erroneously assume that economic calculus is the only (or even primary) influence on corporate chieftans' work ethic.

The BigHo asks about the right-left continuum.

I find that it is better to think of the right-left continuum as a horseshoe rather than a straight line. The ends of the horseshoe almost touch at "dictatorship." It seems to me that the further a political position gets from the natural inclinations of man, the greater the government authority required to force him to conform. Moonbat leftists looking for the dictatorship of the proletariat are pretty similar, when you get down to brass tacks, to the right wing theocracy nuts. The only real difference between their visions of 1984 are the color of the drapes.

And, just so you don't think I'm ducking the second part of the question: Darth Vader is a right-wing fascist. Ordnung im der Force!

BigHo - Now Angst-Free!

BigHo, turning introspective (but not, I repeat, not as the result of angst), tells us about being an Introspective Intuitive Thinkinging Judgemental person.

This is interesting, because your humble Smallholder is an INTJ as well. BigHo and the Minister of Agriculture - blood (personality type-wise) brothers.

To celebrate our newfound kinship, I offer these haiku to the Poer Laureate:

Smallholder and the Big Ho
They are hefty too!

Organic farming
One wonders: shall the twain meet?
Vulgar poetry

Batesville Virginia
T'aint so very far from
Se-oul Korea

Seriously, I send out good thoughts and prayers for the Big Ho's job search. He is even considering (highly paid) stateside gigs.

You know, I can't do the highly paid part. I can't even do the paid part. But if worse comes to worse, buddy, I can give you room and board in return for manual labor. You'll lose weight AND we don't have to tell your student loan holders where you are.

UPDATE FROM THE MAXIMUM LEADER: As unlikely as it sounds, your Maximum Leader is also an INTJ. Wow! Three on one blog.

Mobocracy Redux

What exactly did the Government Reform Committee accomplish in its investigation of steroids in baseball?

A bunch of politicians got their faces on ESPN, appealing to Joe Sixpack.

Friggin' democracy.

A Word of Advice

I have gotten several e-mails from folks about my apple grafting post.

Gratified that others find farm life as interesting as I, I offer the following advice:

When scratching your goat's chin and teling him what a good goat he is, try to avoid letting him sneeze directly into your open mouth because goat snot comes in little slimy pea-sized globules that cling to the roof of your mouth.

Or so I'm told.

The Founders Were Right To Distrust Mobocracy

This was the FIRST special session of Congress in 56 years.

To pass a law to "save" a woman who died fiteen years ago.

A law that is patently unconstitional as a bill of attainder and a violation of the equal protection of law.

But the law doesn't actually do anything.

It allows a federal judge to review state court rulings. The federal judges will uphold the state court rulings - which were all solid and proved immune to challenge. As a matter of medical fact, Schiavo is brain dead. As established finding, Terri would not have wished to be kept alive. Even barring her wish, if she did not express a wish, her husband has the decision-making authority. None of those issues are open to legal dispute.

So essentially we have the picture of our federal government posing for the mob as if they were taking action.

I can't wait for the Mike World Order.

I'm Getting Old

To explain how the Transcendentalists were distrustful of reason divorced from personal introspection, I offered my students the following analogy:

Locke is to Spock
Transcendentalists are to Kirk

A girl raises her hand: "Who is Spock?"


Attention cabal members:

The Maximum Leader has returned.

Obviously, our geisha assassin failed to achieve her objective.

The coup will be rescheduled later.

Resume your faux minionly ways.

Bears and Cars

Several months ago, one member of our blogosphere had/saw a collision with a black bear while driving over Afton mountain. I can't remember who it was.

At any rate, I have an update.

I took my daughter on a tour of the Virginia Wildlife Center in Waynesboro, Va., yesterday. We toured the facilities and learned how they help injured wildlife recover and eventually return to the forest primeval.

They had a bear. The bear had been hit by a car last fall and was slowly recovering. Remembering (dimly) the bear discussion in our blogosphere neighborhood, I asked if the bear had been hit near Afton. The volunteer tour guide only knew that it came from the local area. So it could be the bear in question.

UPDATE: It was Rick over at Brutally Honest. See here.


Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader sees that in his absence there has been a big spat of posting concerning Terri Schiavo. Many have chosen to respond to the thoughtful posts of the Smallholder on this topic. And the AP news wire shows that a federal judge is determining if the feeding tube should be replaced.

Your Maximum Leader hopes to write something more thoughtful on this subject later today. Until then allow him to go on the record with his feelings of total disgust at our Federal Government in this matter. While this is a grave and serious issue, it is a grave and serious issue for the state of Florida and the families involved. It is not, under any stretch of the imagination a federal matter.

Carry on.

He Returns

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader has returned to the Villainschloss. Well... To be quite honest, he returned on Saturday. But various family responsibilities kept him pretty busy all weekend. (Not to mention that he needed time to allow his liver to recover...)

Vegas was great. In keeping with his own (and the Las Vegas Tourism Bureau's) motto, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," it must suffice to say that he had a great time and did enjoy himself while he was away.

Your Maximum Leader will need some time to get back into his routine, so anticipate light posting over the next day or two.

Many thanks to the Smallholder, Sexy Sadie, and the Big Hominid for their posts in your Maximum Leader's absence.

Carry on.

Any way to search the Achives?

I would love to revisit the old posts about how the Neo-Cons got it all wrong and that Freedom and Democracy in the Middle East is impossible.

This is so reminiscent of how Communism in the Old Soviet Union would never be defeated. It's a good thing we had a president with vision then, and isn't it great that we have one NOW?

And, have all those whining Democrat lefties who vowed that they were going to move to Canada gone?

Maybe our friend over at "Enjoy Every Sandwich" can shed some light on whether there has been an increase in the shoplifting in his stores.

Been bunkered in with the new wee one and is still trying to juggle my time.

Back to the trenches

March 20, 2005

From The Exercise In Futility Department

Question For The Maximum Leader: So how was Vegas Baby, Vegas? Tell us all about it.

March 18, 2005

50 Years Ago

Yesterday, my dad sent out this e-mail to his friends:

Can you remember what you were doing fifty years ago today?

I can. I was marching down Broadway in San Diego CA with the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines as we were welcomed back by a cheering crowd as heroes from Korea.

Times have changed.

I'm proud of what you did for the country, Pop!

Wherein She Discusses A Feverish Blog.

Last July, I had the unfortunate initial experience of dealing with a sick blog, at my previous (and now defunct) URL. This of course has happened a handful of times at the newer place, but now when these things happen, I can seek the wise counsel of Our Maximum Leader. Yet when one first has a sick blog, 'tis like learning how to care for a sick child anew. Ah yes, I remember it like 'twas last summer...

To my dismay, The Blog became rather agitated early one week, and unlike the men I had been dating, I couldn't just ignore the problem and let it go away. So one Thursday afternoon, I forced The Blog to sit down and have a chat, but it was speaking incomprehensively and emitting random tones...not cogent at all. When The Blog realized I wasn't understanding it's dilemma, it became angry and sullen. A steady decline ensued, and that night it endeavored to self-destruct, so I rushed it to the nearest inpatient Blog psychiatric clinic. The short drive seemed like hours as it wailed in the backseat, frantically trying to cut/paste itself and rebuild files without my assistance. In fact, I was beginning to feel a bit like Harvey Keitel's character in Reservoir Dogs. You know...during the automobile scene where the bleeding Mr. Orange frightfully screamed in fear and agony? Thankfully, Blogs don't bleed, so I won't have to call in Marcellas for assistance. Luckily we got to the clinic just as The Blog was threatening to hurt me if I didn't get it some relief fast, so I scurried us to clinic admissions, and then I sat down to wait for an update on its status.

For hours I waited, and I was beginning to worry about The Blog's sudden descent into deep-seeded despair. Could it be encephalitis or some other inflammation of its thinking center? No idea. All I could do was wait. Finally the Blog Intake Therapist came out to talk to the "chick paying the tab," and I was informed of the results of The Blog's entrance interview and initial tests. What I found out really wasn't too shocking....The Blog was suffering from an existential crisis. The therapist said that this is not unusual, but that most Blog Owners don't seek treatment, instead preferring to let their writing slip off into oblivion, and unfortunately, those Blogs are never heard from again. Fortunately, The Blog found a will to live and confessed it was having a dilemma of identity, and it was depressed about its self-perception that it had lost its distinctiveness and character. The good news is that the Immersion program of the Clinic, which is credited for helping This Piece Of Crap Blog several times last year, has reportedly never failed to bring back Any Blog with the attitude, spunk, and propensity to offend that my Blog displayed. Whew.

The Intake Therapist said this these "Blog Personality Dilemmas" are normally due to writer's block of the authors, but this clearly wasn't the case here. Rather, this particular Blog Crisis problems were likely due to the recent number of major changes in the Blog's environment. Up until recently before The Crisis, I had been a single girl on the dating scene. It would be understandable that The Blog would be in shock when its Blog Owner found a partner near and dear to her, as if perhaps The Blog might be cast away. I did assure The Blog that this was most certainly not the case, and then it surfaced that The Blog was feeling a bit uneasy without the emotional diarrhea it was used to experiencing. In addition, it had been archiving the writings from many off-topic discussions, when it was used to shuffling most posts into the category of Angst and Agony. Apparently what sent it over the edge was the new Naughty Word of the Day feature, which of course, mades this Blog Owner feel rather guilty.

Really I felt sorry for the blog. It worked hard and never complained when I forced it to do overnight insomnia duty. It also perservered to accommodate the ever-changing moods and whims of its Blog Owner. The therapist assured me that a weekend of rest and psychoanalysis would completely heal The Blog, since its vital signs remained strong. This actually allowed the Blog Owner to take a full weekend off from feeding The Blog, as I had entrusted some experts to heal the smashing Blog that I had so lovingly created. The weekend away did undoubtably bring The Blog back into focus, and indeed, it was raring to go early the next week. Oh, and much to my eternal relief, they did not remove the Blog's Profanity Center.

March 17, 2005

someone has to say it



March 16, 2005

Grafting Giddiness

My dad loves those "five-in-one" apple trees sold by the various glitzy commercial nurseries. I remember getting in trouble a lot as a kid. Running spastically about the backyard, I would occasionally break off a branch of one of dad's high-priced trees. So his five-in-one apple tree would become a four-in-one. Then a three-in-one. Then a two-in-one.

Pity Vater Smallholder. He would get so excited about his new tree and then his hyper little boy would maul it down into a mangy stump.

Today, dad has his own couple of acres of hilltop paradise and has planted quite the little home orchard for himself. Of course, the deer don't understand that the fruit is supposed to be for humans. So the deer have taken over my role of maiming his apple trees. He even tried to convince the local game warden to give him a kill permit like I have so he could defend his trees with lethal force. Denied the license to kill, he has been known to spend Spring nights in a lawn chair in the front yard, rat terrier in his lap, ready to chase away any nighttime Bambi visitations.

Dad has been a great help around the farm and I have really enjoyed hanging out with him, so I bought him a present - participation in a grafting workshop. In compensation for the many trees I had maimed, I would take him to a class where he could learn how to make his own five-in-one trees. I signed us up for a grafting workshop hosted by Vintage Virginia Apples.

Vintage Virginia Apples is a tiny little family farm in North Garden, Va., just down the road from Sweet Seasons Farm. While it does not support the family as a fulltime occupation, three generations take time out from their "real" jobs to help run this wonderful little agricultural plot o' land.

VVA is helping keep a wide selection of rare apple varieties alive, standing athwart the modern movement toward uniformity. They will sell you boutique apples, apple trees, and train small hobbyist "pomologists" in the art of orchard creation and maintenance.

The leader of the grafting workshop was none other than Tom Burford of the legendary Burford Borthers nursery in Monroe, Virginia.

Tom Burford!

Are you guys as thrilled as I was?

Probably not.

Tom Burford is a legend of the apple field. His family has been grafting apple trees since the 1700s. Tom is responsible for the (small) renaissance of neglected varieties in America.

Imagine if you went to an introductory guitar workshop and Eddie Van Halen was the teacher.

Or if you went to Catechism class and the Pope was standing at the front of the room.

I have several books on the old farm bookshelf that talk about Burford's contributions to pomology.

The problem with having such esoteric interests is that no one really understands how exciting this was. My wife humors me. One of my teaching colleagues, upon hearing my tale, replied "Every day I’m more and more shocked that you’re married."

So I'm an orchard geek.

There were a fair number of people at the workshop. Some were simply backyard hobbyists. One woman was on vacation from her Californian bed and breakfast and wanted to learn how to graft the century-old apple trees on her property. When the historical trees succumbed to old age, she wanted clones ready to fill the gaps. One of my tablemates was in his early sixties and wanted to be able to preserve the varieties from his grandmother's farm. The whole room was full of affable apple aficionados from widely divergent backgrounds.

But as interesting as the other workshop participants were, it was Tom Burford at the head of the class!

Where else will you find an agrarian who spices his lectures with phrases like "Call me a Luddite, but I think he loss of historical flavors is a great tragedy?"

Tom opened his talk by discussing why we needed to have a workshop at all. Knowledge of grafting used to be well nigh universal. But World War II acted as an historical interrupter. Young men went off to war, came back to college on the G.I. Bill, and moved to the suburbs. Away from home in the years they would have been learning how to make new trees, they then acquired the affluence to buy ready-made trees. Specialty nurseries began to make trees for the Harry homeowner market - and they tended to focus on a few varieties to streamline their inventories. At the same time, the introduction of the interstate highway system and the growing interstate nature of the agricultural trade led commercial orchards to concentrate on apple varieties with long shelf lives and/or attractive outer coverings. Taste was sacrificed on the altar of commercialism.

But a few small nurseries kept the old flavors alive.

Now I'm doing my part.

Please excuse any typos in this post. I'm typing with a bandaged finger. While doing my part to keep the old flavors alive, I slipped with the grafting knife and gouged out a dime-sized (though shallow) chunk of my pointer finger. Apple grafting workshops are not for sissies. One woman had to go the emergency room and one of my tablemates ought to have gone. There were probably a half-dozen minor gouges like mine.

But the blood was worth it.

I walked out with six new trees:

An Albemarle Pippin

A Arkansas Black

An Ashmead's Kernel

A Black Twig

A Grimes Golden

A Summer Rambo

All in all, a cool day. Hangin' mit Vater Smallholder, learning from a celebrity, and getting new trees for the orchard. Is there anyone out there who can understand my joy?

The internet is a funny thing. You can run into people who share your unusual hobbies. I got an e-mail from Australia last month from a hobby farmer who likes Ayrshires as much as I. I wonder if any of our readers are amateur pomologists? Let me know!

Holocaust Deniers and Intelligent Design

Intelligent design advocates frequently say they only want to provide balance and to "teach the controversy."

The problem is that there is no real controversy. Intelligent design is not accepted as science, in much the same way the holocaust deniers are not accepted as historians. Both intelligent design advocates and holocaust deniers fail to follow the established methodology in "their" respective disciplines.

Americans have come to believe that opposing views should be given equal time. But sometimes this valuable belief has been stretched to ridiculous extremes.

In yesterday's Washington Post, Richard Cohen writes about the ridiculousness of C-Span wanting to "balance" a historian with a holocaust denier. Really. I'm not making this up. Go read.

As I read Cohen's article, the analogy to intelligent design became clearer and clearer.

March 15, 2005

Conspiracy Theories Aplenty.

Hello, fellow minions. 'Tis Sadie, here to exploit this opportunity of guest-blogging for the vacationing Maximum Leader by spreading a little frivolity amidst the otherwise intelligent conversations going on around here. Let us begin, shall we?

Hmmm. It seems that Our Maximum Leader has a thing (or two) in common with the lovely and elegant Miss Jennifer Love Hewitt. In a recent interview Jennifer admits that "she can't stop looking at websites devoted to her breasts." Actually, this fascination seems to border on narcissistic obsession. Check this out:
The star, who has always denied having breast implants, says she often studies the Web pictures to decide which clothes to wear.
She added: "It's fantastic. When I'm in corsets, they're better because they're lifted or separated or whatever."
Earlier this week Jennifer confessed she has difficulty attracting the right men.
The sexy star remains single and has now given up being romantically set-up with men.

Is it just moi, or does it sound like Our Maximum Leader perhaps wrote that interview? Even more disturbing, is it possible that the psuedo-benevolent autocratic despot secretly is Jennifer Love Hewitt, giggling behind her keyboard, just so she can blog about herself on a regular basis? These are burning questions indeed.

I report. You decline to decide.

Ally Responds

Ally objects (as I knew she would) to my piece on the Schiavo situation.

Before I address her points, let me make clear that the quotation marks around the word "conservative" were not intended to negatively characterize conservatives in general. The intent was to highlight the point that those who want the government to intervene in the dying process are hardly acting conservatively - inasmuch that conservatives generally believe in individual free will and a minimum of government intrusion in our lives.

Go read Ally's post. I'll wait.

Ally writes:

1. Terry is not in a persistent vegetative state. She is brain damaged, and has
had no therapy. I have seen video footage of Terry smiling and laughing, holding
her mother's hand, and looking in her mother's eyes. Her parent's claim that
they showed the footage to a doctor, who claimed he could work Terry and help
her speak and regain movement again. The woman is brain damaged, so no, she is
never going to be the Terry Schiavo she was. However, certainly, it is worth
looking into the therapy that might help her regain a little of who she is.

First of all, my understanding is that she had extensive therapy against the advice of doctors back in 1990. The doctors pointed out that her cerebral cortex was destroyed by her heart attack. Both her husband and parents sought therapy anyway, even moving her out of state to California for additional therapy when Terri was unresponsive to the therapy she was receiving in Florida. All in all, she had FOUR years of therapy with no improvement.

In fact, let's not use the phrase "no improvement." Evidently, because her body continued to breathe despite the death of her brain, her body kept trying to heal the brain damage and gradually filled the space that once contained her cerebral cortex with spinal fluid.

Eventually, Michael realized that his wife was dead. Although he had been cooperating with Terri's parents for four years, he became irritated that they would not acknowledge reality and moved out of their house and began trying to withdraw the maintenance of Terri's body. (The move out of the parents' house also involved an argument over splitting the proceeds of the malpractice settlement.)

The gambit of trying to give her new "therapy" is an attempt by the parents to make Michael look bad. If, as all the diagnostic tests and doctors are correct, there is not much "therapy" can do to teach spinal fluid to act as a conscious mind.

Ally also writes:

2. Michael Schiavo has consistently tried to end Terry's life. There are nurses
who took care of her who were willing to testify that he would call in and ask
if "the bitch" had died yet. He was given the insurance monies, with which he
swore he would take care of her and get her therapy - which he has not done. He
has prevented her from having dental exams, female exams, etc. Her blinds are
not allowed to be raised, and he frequently bans her parents from going to see
her. And of course, he is living with another woman and has children with her.
I'm not thinking he's a real good cheerleader to have on Terry's side.

Um, Michael clung to hope for FOUR years. Hell, I would have realized the inevitable well before that. As I mentioned in an earlier post, one look at my beloved Uncle John's MRI was enough for me to know that he was well and truly gone. So Michael deluded himself for four years. This is understandable – denial is a powerful thing. Terri's parents have constructed an elaborate fantasy over the last fifteen years. The fact that Michael has grieved for his wife, and moved on after a decade - finding a new life partner isn't particularly appaling.

Ally then writes:

3. The judge has never been to see Terry, and doctors who are paid for by
Michael is the only testimony he has heard.

Does Ally really believe that the doctors are really part of some anti Terri cabal? That the doctors at her various treatment facilities have all somehow been bought off by Michael? This beggars the imagination. The party line about the bias of the doctors has been trumpeted by the pro-life fringe movement so often that people have come to accept it uncritically. I would ask Ally to stop and think about this for a couple of minutes. Does it really seem plausible that ALL the medical professionals who have worked with Terri are venal bribe-taking murderers? That none of them have a conscience? Are they faking the MRIs showing the spinal fluid where the cortex ought to be? Are all the MRI technicians bought off?

As to the judge meeting Terri - why would he? When all the medical professionals say that she is brain dead, what would his visiting her hospice bed add? Note that Terri's parents could not produce any medical professionals who would testify that she is not in a persistant vegetative state. They did find two guys (hmmm, sought out and paid for by them), who, without actually examining Terri, opined that there were new therapies being developed that might be tried- but had no medical literature with which to back their claims.

Let's pause and weight the testimony for a second. The pro-life folks want us to believe that two isolated doctors are telling the truth and every other doctor is lying? That the one doctor who was specifically sought out to a party in the case is more reliable than all the doctors who were not selected by any party but only became part of the case when Terri entered their facility?

Ally, while agreeing with me* that "Michael's character, while dubious and disgusting, has nothing to do with the case itself. People get caught up in hating him, and forget the reality and law of the case," still seems to be caught up in the "conflict of interest" issue:

She writes:

Given that Michael has clearly conflicting interests, why shouldn't her family

I assume this is a reference to the fact that Michael will inherit Terri's estate when she dies. I am not aware of the extent of the estate, but it would have to be substantial if it is worth a decade of legal wrangling. And if Michael does have this financial conflict of interest, doesn't that mean that her parents do too? If the Schiavos are divorced, wouldn't that shift the estate to her parents as next of kin? And wasn't part of their falling out with Michael financial?

As to the living will, Ally is correct. This underscores the importance of everyone getting a living will. But the court judge found that there was clear evidence of Terri's beliefs on the matter. See the court ruling here - scroll down to pages five and six. The only person to argue that Terri would want to live was her mother - whose memory of a decades-old event suddenly became clearer between deposition and trial and was clearly in conflict with chronology. Go ahead and read the court ruling - it is pretty damning of the mother's testimony.

Keep reading through the court opinion - it shows that the testimony that Terri is brain dead was UNREFUTED:

"The medical evidence before this court conclusively established that she has no
hope of ever regaining consciousness and therefore capacity, and that without
the feeding tube she will die in seven to fourteen days. The UNREBUTTED
(emphasis Smallholder's) testimony before this court is that such death would be

...The overwhelming credible evidence (overwhelming the
duly noted mother's "perceptions" - Smallholder) is that Terri Schiavo has been
totally unresponsive since lapsing into the coma almost ten years ago, that her
movements are reflexive and predicated on brain stem activity alone, that she
suffers from severe structural brain damage and to a large extent her brain has
been replaced by spinal fluid, that with the exception of one witness whom the
court finds to be so biased as to lack credibility, her movements are occasional
and totally consistent with the testimony of the expert medical witnesses.
The testimony of Dr. Barnhill establishes that Terri Schiavo’s reflex actions
such as breathing and movement shows merely that her brain stem and spinal cord
are intact...

...the UNREBUTTED (Emphasis Smallholder again) evidence
remains that Terri Schiavo remains in a persistent vegetative state."

Whew. Given that the Schiavos had the immense resources of both the pro-life movement and (later) the governor's mansion and were still unable to even challenge the medical evidence is pretty telling. Unable to win on the medical level, the Schiavos and the pro-life crowd behind them have turned to public opinion. The parents and not the facts seem to be winning, at least in this little corner of the blogosphere.

I await Ally's reply. Unless of course, you humble servant of the soil is unrebuttable.

FOOTNOTE: Links to court decisions found here.

* After reading the court decisions, it appears that I was a bit hasty in condemning Michael - he appears very differently when not viewed through the prism of the Schindler's propaganda machine.