Archive for May, 2006

Interview with Blackfive

Blackfive: I enlisted in the military when I was seventeen. I briefly served as an Army aircraft crew chief before becoming a paratrooper and then joining Special Operations. After receiving a Commission as a Cavalry Officer, I served in units in Europe, Asia and Southwest Asia before working as an Intelligence Officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). I left the military as a Major in the US Army Reserve in July of 2001. I have a Masters of Science Degree from the University of Chicago. Currently, I am an IT Executive in Chicago.

A good friend of mine, Major Mathew Schram, was killed on Memorial Day, 2003. In fighting his way out of an ambush, he saved the life of a Newsweek reporter who never wrote a story about Mat.

Newsweek really pissed me off and I started blogging about the good, the bad, the humorous and the ugly of military life because most MSM outlets like Newsweek weren’t. If it didn’t fit the template of “Bush sucks, the war sucks, the military is failing,” then it didn’t get published by most of the MSM.

There was a distinct void of coverage of what was actually happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. My friends were sending emails, reports, after-action-reviews, and photos that were contradicting what I was reading in the NYTimes and the WashPo. So I started posting about them. And took on a life of it’s own…

Simon Owens: Much of the rhetoric in the 2004 election and in political dicussions today involve the “message” we send the troops when criticising the war. As a military blogger, what is the notion of this “message,” and does it imply that we’re sending false messages of reality to the troops in order to boost morale?

Blackfive: Well, you are asking first about the message you send the troops when you criticize the war. Saying that you support the troops and not the war, sends the troops the message that (1) you don’t support their mission which,ergo, means them and (2) that you don’t approve of what they are doing.

I have no idea what you mean about “sending false messages of reality to the troops in order to boost morale.” The messages you describe at the beginning of your question clearly would not boost morale. In fact, I would argue that it would have the opposite effect.


To The People blogger owes the ACLU $100 and me an apology

A few days ago, I posted an interview with the Agitator, and in response to the way I asked a certain question, the blog To the People described it as a turd question. When asked why the question was crap, the blogger had this to say:


As Minerva notes, Mexicans are not a race any more than “Americans” or “Chinese” are a race. No “Mexican”, to the best of my knowledge, has ever voted in the United States.

I responded that the term “Mexican” can be used as a racial term, and provided several points as to why this is. So in response, he put up a post in which he offered $100 to the organization of my choice, and a public apology if I were to prove him wrong:

So here’s my offer, Simon: Find a legitimate, scholarly source that supports your claim of one Mexican race. (For example, a university professor who does not belong to the Aryan Brotherhood would suffice.) Then send me information in the form of a paper or link. If you can find such a source, not only will I publish the link and admit I was wrong, but I will immediately donate $100 to the charity of your choice.

Of course, if you look in the comments field of that post, I provided several sources (including one he linked to himself, apparently without even reading it), including one from a professor who “does not belong to the Aryan Brotherhood” (as he put it).

Since then, his readers have engaged in multiple semantics games, but I’ve clearly found several sources that actually used the term “Mexican Race,” and pointed out that Mexicans were labeled as an ethnic group in the Wikipedia article he linked to (and if you look in any thesaurus, a synonym for “race” is “ethnic” group).

So, that was on the 23rd. Has he issued an apology to me yet and sent that $100 check to the ACLU like I requested? Nope! Did I ever think he actually would? No. At best, he’ll either pretend like he never posted that offer and ignore it completely, delete the post, or just run to google in search of a single web-page that argues that Mexicans aren’t a race, and say that this discounts all my sources, even though that wasn’t part of the deal.

Business as usual.

Interview with Alphecca

Jeff Soyer describes himself as a “gay gun nut” and has turned that into a franchise via his blog Shunned by all but a handful of “gay” bloggers, he has found acceptance within the pro-2nd Amendment community as one of the tireless defenders of the right to keep and bear arms. His “Weekly Check on the Bias” of media regarding firearm issues has been a weekly feature at Alphecca for nearly four years and he does the report live every Tuesday on the NRA’s NRA News radio broadcast with the host of the show, Cam Edwards, heard by thousands on Sirius Satellite Radio and streamed on the web. At 51-years-old, Jeff lives in a rural part of Vermont, shuns travel except within Vermont and New Hampshire, and works for a medium sized, gay owned furniture manufacturer. On Thursday evenings, a goodly number of the company’s employees (including several officers of the company) gather at a local range to make a lot of noise. Jeff thinks he’s in heaven.

Simon Owens: Since you describe yourself as a gay gun nut, we’re going to start with a few obvious questions. Obviously, as a gun nut, you probably come into contact with many other gun nuts, and since many gun nuts are socially conservative, how has their reactions been to you? Have they rejected you because of your gay status, or have you seen a kind of “Hmm, maybe gay people aren’t so bad after all if they like guns” kind of response?

Jeff Soyer: At the gun stores I frequent, at all the ranges I’ve gone to — all the firearm enthusiasts I’ve met in person or via Alphecca, I’ve never ever had anyone distance themselves from me, make any sort of comment about me (at least that I’ve heard or heard about) and darn-near all of them read my site. Now, do they all “approve” of my “lifestyle”? I certainly doubt it but in Northern New England, you don’t diss someone to their face. Yet they all call me, “Want to go to the range this weekend?”, and so on. One thing about living rurally — there are too few people around to get into hating any of them. I’ve heard plenty of anti-gay remarks and worse when I lived in urban areas. I’ve never heard it — to my face, anyway — in this area.

Further, there IS a fraternity feeling about firearm enthusiasts. We’re all into it. We like plinking and blasting at targets and discussing and trying out new guns, cartridges, grips, and so on. When you hang out at ranges — and for six months a year I’m there 1-2 times a week — everyone is into helping everyone else, trying each other’s firearms, discussing stance, technique, and so on.

Here’s something else. As the result of occassional, stupid comments by a very rare few, people have the idea that the NRA is homophobic. That’s absolute bullshit. As an organization, they have only one concern; protecting our 2nd Amendment rights. Are there some members who don’t like gays? Sure. There are some members of the NAACP and the ACLU and the Democratic Party who don’t like gays. So what? I know for a fact that one of the lawyers employed by the NRA in it’s ILA (Institute of Legislative Affairs) is openly gay. I know for a real fact that the NRA links to Alphecca (meaning me) and allows me to do a segment every Tuesday on their national radio show. They even have my picture up for the 21 hours before the Tuesday show starts. In fact, they pay me for my segment. Does that sound like a homophobic organization?

Simon Owens: Many special interest groups that deal with controversial issues oppose any legislation that limits their cause, even if they don’t necessarily agree with it completely. For instance, in terms of partial-birth abortion (and I label it this grudgingly, since “partial-birth abortion” was a term made up by conservatives, and is incredibly misleading), many pro-choice people might not agree that it’s a good thing, yet they fight the incremental approach because they recognize that pro-life groups are trying to chip away at a woman’s choice to have an abortion. The same goes for gun legislation. But if it weren’t for the incremental approach, would you agree that at least *some* gun control is necessary?

Jeff Soyer: The fact is that there IS a “slippery slope” and we’ve seen it time and again. Outside the U.S. we’ve seen England, Australia, and others who have, through the years, enact more and more restrictions, regulations, and outright bans of firearms. Not coincidentally, their crime rate increases as criminals become emboldened because they face victims who are prohibited from defending themselves.

I believe that if someone has not been convicted of a violent crime, that is — they are “law abiding”, then they should be allowed to own whatever guns they would like.

I actually think the national instant background check conducted by gun dealers is fine. The FBI looks you up to see if you are a convicted felon or have restraining orders against you and gives the dealer a Yes or No for the sale. That’s pretty much all the gun control I think is necessary. I think it is obscene that some few states and municipalities think you need to “show cause” for why you want a handgun, or to carry a handgun, and by the way, most of them do not accept “for personal defense” as a valid reason. In some states, such as New Jersey and Delaware, you can be turned down at the whim of a police chief or judge if they don’t like you or consider you a “moral” person. Gay people were routinely turned down for such permits in many states not that long ago.


Interview with The Agitator

In this week’s series of interviews with conservative bloggers, our first up to be questioned is The Agitator.

Simon Owens: As the election season begins to warm up, how do you think the Immigration issues will affect the election results? Will there be a mass mobilization of Mexicans to the polls to vote for Democrats?

Radley Balko: I’m not sure about that. The Democrats seem to be pretty pro-immigrant. But then, so is the White House and the RNC. I suppose it’s possible that Hispanics might try to send a message to the anti-immigrant wing of the GOP, but remember, only U.S. citizens can vote. That rules out all of the undocumented immigrants, as well as all non-citizen immigrants here legally.

On the other side, I think you may also be looking at a wash. Immigration opponents have more allies in the GOP than they do with the Democrats. But they also seem to be frustrated that the White House and Republican leadership in Congress hasn’t taken more drastic action. Neither party is giving them what they want (as someone who supports liberal immigration policies, I’m more than happy with that).

My guess is that given that neither party’s really representing them, come November the nativist right is more likely to be disillusioned than angry.

Simon Owens: By calling your blog “The Agitator,” you seem to be commenting on the edgy conflicts in politics and how they can reach a climax within the anonymous confines of the internet. Do you ever find this to be counter-productive to your cause?

Radley Balko: Not really. I chose the name because it’s memorable, marketable, and the domain happened to be available. “Agitator” also commonly pops up to describe many of the people I admire from history, too.


LitHaven relaunching

LitHaven is now officially relaunching. Even though its previous focus dealt a lot with reviews, it will now primarily focus on writer markets and interviews with writers and publishers (about writing craft and submissions). Please spread the word.

The Homosexual Identity Was Created by Those Who Fight Against Them: The Irony

Within any kind of moralist debate, the need to categorize and define becomes almost necessary in order to form an argument. What results is a devolution into a game of semantics, where one party simply tries to debase the generalized terms of the other, and in the end they are no longer arguing about the issue at hand, but at ways to merely define the issue. Arguments that deal with gay or lesbian issues often fall into this trap, because the pro-gay side will no-doubt produce analogies or scenarios in which straight people engage in the same action. For instance, if a homophobe were to make the claim that gay sex is unnatural since sex is aimed at procreation, then the other side would say that anything other than vaginal sex should be deemed inappropriate between straight couples, since procreation is impossible without it. This would discount any kind of foreplay, and though I’m sure that some straight people out there wouldn’t mind this, I think most would. At the heart of this semantics debate is the one between essentialists and constructionists. The essentialists, by their very nature, attempt to locate the essence of every entity, and would try to hone in on specific traits that make and categorize that entity into a group. This does not mean that this person couldn’t have traits uncharacteristic to the group, only that these characteristics are irrelevant to it, just things that define an individual person. What is stressed is the fact that these traits or characteristics are often considered permanent, consistently found to be true in every scenario. So in terms of gay and lesbian lifestyle, there is a key essence to what it means to be a homosexual. Social constructionism, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily completely contradict the essentialist philosophy, but rather tries to explain it. The theory was first created by Thomas Luckmann and Peter L. Berger in their book The Social Construction of Reality, and tries to argue that people work and function in what is often termed a perceived reality. Rather than things being permanent, like essentialists claim they are, these perceived realities are an ongoing process that is based on people’s interpretations of the world around them. It rejects the notion of everyday common sense, claiming that common sense is just another interpretation of reality. What makes the essentialist vs constructionist debate even more interesting is when it isn’t just applied to morals, but the law as well. Perhaps one of the most well-documented 21st-century supreme court cases of this is Lawrence vs. Texas. In it, two gay males were caught in the act of gay sex when police officers entered their home (for entirely different reasons) and arrested them for anti-sodomy laws that were still in use in the state of Texas. The case eventually made it to the supreme court, and the end result was a 6-3 ruling in favor of Lawrence, thereby stomping down the anti-sodomy laws across the land, making this a landmark case for the Gay Right Movement. I’ll outline the essentialist and constructionist debates in both the dissenting and majority opinions for this particular case.

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