I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Friday, January 17, 2020

My Impeachment Rant

This is the third impeachment process I've encountered in my life. I was just a kid when they were making the case against Nixon (who, I know, wasn't technically impeached). My main interaction with it was that the hearings preempted Gilligan's Island when I got home from school so I had to just go outside and play. Still, I remember all the adults in my life talking about it. I don't even remember my family being all that active politically, but I remember there being some sort of family gathering it was the topic of discussion for all my aunts and uncles. It felt like something really big, but not something I had any hope of understanding. 

I was an adult during the Clinton impeachment. This was riveting stuff from beginning to end, partly because it was a story breaking right as the internet was turning into a real medium for news. It was basically an all you could eat buffet of coverage. I remember arguing with my friend Greg, who insisted it was a hack job by Republicans to toss out a president they didn't like, and that the sex element was the only reason anyone cared, and of course it was no big deal Clinton had lied about having sex. Even if he had lied under oath, it wasn't in the course of his presidential duties, but a civil trial unrelated to his office. I wasn't as sure that the purgury wasn't a big deal. I gave those in favor of impeachment the benefit of the doubt that maybe they were really upset about a crime that pretty much everyone agreed had occurred. But, ultimately, when he wasn't convicted by the senate, I felt that this was fine. It just felt too much like a personal failing and not some sort of intentional betrayal of the nation. 

And now with Trumps impeachment... it feels just weirdly lost in the noise. I see posts about in on Facebook, but I don't stumble onto people talking about it in real life. But, that's true of a lot of politics. People rant on Facebook, but when I'm at conventions or parties or hanging out in a bar with friends no one is all that eager to talk about politics. The kind of arguments I could have with Greg seem like a long distant memory, when I could hold different opinions on matters of policy, vote for different candidates, and champion radically different visions of how the world should be and we'd still be friends. If anything, we might even have been better friends than if we'd been in lockstep. We both appreciated the other person keeping us on our toes. I didn't argue with him so much to prove him wrong as I did to find out if my arguments and opinions had any merit or internal logic. But, back to Trump, my larger point is that, in my personal circles, it just seems to be far in the background. 

Which is odd, because I feel like the case against Trump is far more consequential than the one against Clinton, but also far more debatable. I don't think you need to commit an actual crime to be guilty of abusing the power of your office. I think that's kind of the point behind labeling something "abuse." Sure, we give the president broad powers to conduct foreign policy and criminal investigations. There's a reason the articles brought by the house don't feature any actual transgressions of criminal statutes. But, the lack of crime doesn't indicate a lack of abuse. We invest a president with these powers intending for him to use them for the country's benefit, not his own self-advancement. 

Conversely, we elect politicians knowing that they will do things that benefit them politically. The list of deals and double-crosses and dirty tricks employed by past presidents is pretty long. The idea that Trump was trying to dig up dirt against Biden, or even just to slander him with completely false and malicious accusations, doesn't strike me as beyond the pale. Maybe I'm jaded. I'm much more bothered that he'd withhold foreign aid to try to strong arm Ukraine, but this is where things get murky, since Ukraine claims not to have known they were being strong armed. Right now, I think the piece of evidence that's lacking to make this a simple, clear cut case of abuse is that much used phrase, "quid pro quo." I feel like the thing that's missing is an actual transcript or recording of anyone of consequence in the administration saying to anyone of consequence in Ukraine, "You will do this or you'll never see the money." Hints and implications and hearsay aren't enough for me. Why the house didn't go to court to compel testimony and documents from Bolton and Giuliani mystifies me. I know it would have dragged things out, but holding onto the articles of impeachment for a month doesn't demonstrate any serious urgency. New evidence is emerging. Why didn't they fight things out in court and continue collecting the evidence they must know is out there and bring the charges in April or June or August? Take the time to do it right. Relying on the Republican led senate to summon witnesses that you didn't bother summoning feels like a very bizarre strategy. 

On a far more cynical level, for all the talk of Pelosi being a political genius, the other huge advantage of dragging the investigation out several more months is that, if Ruth Bader Ginsberg passes away, Pelosi would have had the power to just shut down the Senate for a month or more to keep them from being able to process a new nominee. 

For a closing thought, I don't feel like this has been a very traumatic event for the nation. Maybe things will change over the next few weeks, but I feel like people had their sides going into this and no one is changing their minds. But I also don't feel like anyone is trying to change minds. The connections between the two factions have been severed so that people just talk to their fellow partisans and either curse or ignore the other side. Everyone plays to their base. As a political outsider who belongs to neither party, I feel a little sad that no one bothers to try to win me over to their side anymore. I'm very, very open to hearing good arguments. I'm open to long and complex chains of logic that might not change my mind, but at least make me believe that the person arguing is sincere, thoughtful, and fair. Tweets and sound bites and memes are all that's left, it seems. Man, it makes me feel old. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

Best of 2019: Flora

One of the most wonderful things about travelling with Cheryl is her eye for spotting flowers. I can't tell you how many rides we've completed where I've not seen a single thing I thought was worth taking a picture off only to have Cheryl show me a dozen or more breathtaking shots. Most of these are just taken with her cell phone, a Pixel 2XL. It's a good camera for a lot of situations, but these up close detail shots are definitely one of its best features. 

Best of 2019: Landscapes and Sunsets

Adventure 2019 Part 2!

More memorable moments!