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.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crying Wolf in American Politics

Michelle Bachmann's best day of her political life and her worst day were probably one in the same. She rose to the very top of the pack of contenders for the GOP nomination by winning the Ames Straw Poll... and completely vanished from national media attention within 48 hours due to Rick Perry announcing his run from President the same day. Perry appeals to almost exactly the same voters who support her, but has an actual resume, having been governor of Texas for 11 years.

Nothing is certain in politics, but at this point, I have to assume that Perry will be the Republican nominee. He's got the red meat rhetoric that will fire up the base, an economic track record that fiscal conservatives can pull behind, and a state's rights view that libertarians like myself can find intriguing.

It's a rare day that I don't read about ten editorials on Real Clear Politics, and I have to sigh at the weary sameness of the attacks against Perry. They boil down to: 1. He's too religious and anti-science. 2. He's a radical right-winger. 3. He's racist. 4. He's dumb.

The thing is, these same labels have been stuck on every republican candidate since Reagan. I think that most voters just tune out these labels at this point. For what it's worth, I think that Republicans have mushed up the word liberal until it's almost meaningless. Bill Clinton was a fairly middle of the road politician who was called liberal every day he was in office. Barak Obama actually was liberal, but voters didn't seem to be afraid of liberalism any more, probably because the label had been overused. So, now the right has had to ramp up the rhetoric from liberal to socialist. One day, perhaps, it will provide the groundwork for electing a genuine socialist.

So what do I think of the four main charges?

1. He's too religious and anti-science. I'm not a bigot. Even though I'm an atheist, I think a man should be free to profess his religious beliefs. I'm just curious if Perry feels the same way. The first Bush said that he didn't think atheists could be patroits. I can't google any similar comments by Perry, but rest assured I'll be listening for this closely. As for being anti-science, he doesn't seem to believe in evolution, which is a strike in my opinion. But, he's really being attacked for denouncing man-made global warming as a hoax. I'm not prepared to call the theory a hoax. I think it's an interesting theory that explains a lot of evidence. But, I also think that people who say that the debate is settled are equally anti-science. There have been radical temperature changes in the past plainly not triggered by human action.

I want a president who is capable of thinking about science in a rational manner. I'm not sure Perry can do this. On the other hand, I don't doubt that Obama can think rationally, but what has it gained us? I'm not sure that understanding evolution helps make better decisions about, say, conducting unauthorized military operations in Libya.

2. He's a radical right-winger. He thinks social security is a Ponzi scheme. He thinks states should be free to chart their own courses on marriage and drugs and education. He thinks it's treasonous for the Fed to keep printing money. Will the American people put up with this? Who the hell knows. But, I read an article denouncing almost every idea put forth in Perry's book "Fed Up," and I found myself thinking that Perry was right almost every time. If he does stick to his guns, he will be presenting voters with their most conservative presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater. But, his state's rights position, in my mind, provides a buffer against his most radical positions. It can shift the fights on social issues out of the federal level and back to the states.

3. He's racist. Some of the articles I've read treat Perry as the second coming of the Confederacy. Anyone who champions state's rights must deal with the problem that this was a code word in earlier times for allowing state sponsored segregation and oppression.

But, these aren't earlier times. The true meaning of the tenth ammendment strikes me as a fair constitutional debate. If there is any evidence that Perry holds racist views, I'm open to hearing it. So far, the attacks are remarkably unpersuasive.

4. He's dumb. Meh. As a certified smart person, I can tell you that raw intelligence is a vastly overrated commodity. I heard he had mediocre grades in college. So what? He's climbed up out of extremely modest beginnings and gone on to be elected governor of one of our largest states three times. I don't know if he's read Camus or can give even a short hand overview of quantum mechanics. He's demonstrated that he can govern a state without taking it completely off the rails. I don't think he's a genius, but I don't think most political decisions require genius.

So, after writing a reasonably pro-Perry column, do I intend to vote for him? Probably not. I've got a good track record going for voting Libertarian. In the past, my choices have been to vote for a Libertarian who can't win but who I agree with on 95% of issues, or a Democrat or Republican who will win but whom I disagree with on 95% of issues. I think I'd have to agree with Perry in the 30 to 40% range to switch loyalties. So far, I'm not there.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Worse than Racist

So, last week, it was announced that in the Ultimate Spiderman comic, Peter Parker is being killed off and replaced by a half-black/half-latino teenager named Miles Morales. My immediate reaction was... again?

Not because Spiderman has been replaced with a black character before, but because the list of superheroes who've been replaced by black characters, at least temporarily, is at this point an exceedingly long one.

Just off the top of my head, Superman was replaced by John Henry Irons. Green Lantern was replaced by John Stewart. Firestorm, replaced by black man. Wildcat, replaced by black woman. (Or was she hispanic? Memory fails.) Mr. Terrific is now black. The Invisible Kid from Legion of Superheroes was a black frenchman. Later, Element Lad got the melanin makeover. Green Arrow was replaced by a bastard son whose ethnicity tended to drift based on what artist portrayed him. Mister Miracle, briefly black. The Blue Beetle has also had a race change. Over at Marvel, Goliath became Black Goliath. Captain Marvel was replaced with a black woman. Iron Man was replaced by Rhodey. In the Ultimate Universe, Nick Fury is black.

I cannot deny that comic books for a very long time were dominated by white characters. Hell, between the Hulk and Brainiac Five, there were more green-skinned superheroes than black ones. And, when comics tried to rectify this, they gave us cringe-inducing attempts like the first run at Black Lightning. I can see the temptation to say, "Look! We're not racist! We've got a black Superman! How cool is that?"

The problem, of course, is that these characters always turn out to be benchwarmers and second stringers. Iron Man is black only long enough for readers to clamor for the return of Tony Stark. Sometimes, the black replacements are set up as heroes in their own right. War Machine, Steel, and Black Goliath all got their own books, and all flopped. These characters are just set up to fail.

I don't seriously think the comic creators who make these decisions to revamp white superheroes as black superheroes do so with any racist intent. I'm sure they actually intend to promote diversity and cultural understanding. But, at this point, they are committing a sin worse than racism. They are serving us cliches. It's been almost thirty years since Goliath became Black Goliath. I think at this point, the black hero replaces white hero story has been done to death. Maybe, just maybe, the key to getting more black heroes into comics is to just create some new heroes with some new stories?

Beach Pics

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here's 8000 words about my beach trip.